Recently there has been a disturbing spate of killings triggered by videos of lynchings that were circulated on WhatsApp, all related to rumours about child-lifting. News of similar attacks from other parts of the country are coming out, almost on a daily basis.   

A young filmmaker based in Assam tried to analyse the reasons behind such lynchings; the article that he wrote blamed well-oiled rackets comprising human traffickers in cahoots with local police and administration. These traffickers, the article claimed, abduct children for organs and to provide cheap labour to Indian cities. The gullible locals, who are supposed to have lost all faith in the police are increasingly taking the law into their own hands, spurred by rumours which are being circulated on the social media.

Though this is just an assumption – because no such cases of kids disappearing have been reported in places where such lynchings are taking place – we have all heard from our childhood about children being stolen from their parents, who are then mutilated and forced to beg on the streets.

In the west, the problem is a little different. Such kidnappings are mostly tied up with the sex industry where young children from impoverished, often immigrant backgrounds are abducted by paedophile rackets to work in the adult film industry or forced into prostitution. Quite often young girls who come to Western Europe from countries which were once part of the erstwhile USSR to seek a livelihood are lured by the money to act in such films, or simply kidnapped, drugged and tortured to be a part of such international rackets.

There has been a long tradition of films which have been made on the subject, not only in North and Latin American countries and Europe, but the Far East as well – even Australia. It is a problem that has international spread and ramifications.

Iconic Canadian director David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (2007) tells the story of a Russian-British midwife Anna (played by Naomi Watts) based in London who delivers a baby of a drug-addicted 14-year old Russian prostitute who dies during childbirth. After Anna learns that the teen was lured into prostitution by the Russian Mafia in London on her arrival from Russia, the leader of the Russian gangsters who runs a prestigious restaurant threatens the baby’s life to keep her from telling the police about the sex trafficking ring. As Anna tries to protect the baby, she is enmeshed deeper into the criminal underworld and finds out that the child was fathered by the gangster’s deranged son when he raped the under-aged girl.

Taken, directed by Pierre Morel is a 2008 English-language French action thriller that traces a former CIA operative, played by Liam Neeson who sets about tracking down his teenage daughter and her best friend after the two girls are kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers while vacationing in France.  The success of the film spurred a franchise, though the other films did not directly deal with trafficking.

Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s The Captive (2014) which is streaming on Netflix depicts a father’s search for her missing daughter who disappeared eight years ago from inside his truck when he went briefly inside a diner, leaving her alone. Years later, two detectives who work on cases of paedophilia discover recent images of the missing girl on a portal dedicated to such activities. The audience learns that Cassandra, the daughter, now a grown-up teenager held captive at a remote place has been turned into a procurer by her demented abductors; she now lures young girls online. 

Hounds of Love (2016), an Australian psychological thriller directed by debutant Ben Young investigates a similar abduction of a young teenaged girl but for a different reason. Set in Perth during the mid-1980s, Vicky Maloney is randomly abducted by a deranged couple who subject her to a dark world of violence and domination; they plan to murder her like they have done other girls in the neighbourhood. They are seemingly a respectable couple, but their neighbours are unaware of their evil doings. Vicky realises that the only way she can escape her fate is to drive a wedge between her captors – but it is easier said than done.

(The author is a Mumbai-based  filmmaker, 0instructor  and writer)