“At night these dens are crowded to excess, and it is estimated that there are upwards of twelve thousand persons in Lucknow enslaved by this hideous vice. An opium sot is the most hopeless of all drunkards. Once in the clutches of the fiend, everything gives way to his fierce promptings. His victims only work to get more money for opium. Wife, children, home, health, and life itself are sacrificed to this degrading passion.”
If twelve thousand for Lucknow be a fair estimate, can we put the figures for the whole country at less than 100,000?
Still there is a deeper depth. In the same city, says Mr. Caine, there are ninety shops for the sale of Bhang and Churras. “Bhang,” says the same writer, “is the most horrible intoxicant the world has ever produced. In Egypt its importation and sale is absolutely forbidden, and a costly preventive service is maintained to suppress the smuggling of it by Greek adventurers. When an Indian wants to commit some horrible crime such as murder, he prepares himself for it with two annas’ worth of Bhang.”
In the all but impenetrable shades and death-breathing swamps of this social forest, lie and suffer and rot probably not less than one hundred thousand prostitutes. Multitudes of these are dedicated to such a life in childhood, given over to it, in some cases by their parents and not unfrequently kept in connection with the temples. Thousands are searched for and persuaded and entrapped by old women, whose main business it is to supply the market. We know of at least one village where beautiful children, who have been decoyed or purchased from their parents by these prostitute-hunters, are taken to be reared and trained for the profession. In Bombay there is actually a caste in which the girls are in early childhood “married to the dagger,” or, in other words, dedicated to a life of prostitution. In some of the cities old men are employed as touts to secure customers for the women, who remain in their haunts, thus seducing and leading into vice crowds of lads and young men who might otherwise have escaped.
Such suffering, shame, cruelty, and wreckage belong to this crime that one’s heart bleeds to think of the tens of thousands doomed, not by their own choice, but by the wicked greed of unnatural parents or the crafty cunning of wicked decoys to such a gehenna, without the least power to extricate themselves from its torment and its shame.
With so much pity left upon the earth to weep over human woes, with so much courage still to hack and hew a path through grim forests and morasses of suffering, there must, and shall, be found “a way out.”