Carolyn Malsawmtluangi (pic), from the northeastern state of Mizoram, was honoured by the government on India's Republic Day last week for "showing exemplary courage" after she stopped a human trafficker who had kidnapped a seven-year-old girl from a neighbouring village.
Malsawmtluangi, 11, first spotted the trafficker when playing volleyball with friends in June last year but assumed they were a mother and daughter, and even asked if the young girl wanted to join their game.
But after police raised the alarm over a trafficker the next day, Malsawmtluangi soon spotted the woman again and began talking to her before agreeing to take care of the girl while the woman ran an errand.
It was then that both girls escaped - Malsawmtluangi carrying the child on her shoulders and running home while avoiding stones hurled by the angry trafficker.
"If Carolyn had not stopped them, the trafficker would have disappeared with the little girl," said Khawlhrinj Lalhlupuii, a secretary at the Mizoram State Council for Child Welfare that recommended her for the annual award.
"She was very brave to understand the danger to the little girl and save her," she said. "We plan to share her story in all schools and create awareness on trafficking and safety."
Of the nearly 6,000 victims of human trafficking in India each year, about half were children, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Most are women and children from rural areas looking to escape poverty - lured to cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs, but sell them into modern day slavery.
More than 60,000 children were kidnapped in 2018, the crime bureau added, with the majority trafficked for marriage, forced labour or into domestic servitude, and rarely reunited with their families.
In Mizoram, anti-trafficking efforts have been increased in recent years in a bid to stem a rise in reported cases.
"We are stepping up our efforts because young people are increasingly getting duped by fake agents promising jobs," said Vanlalruata, president of the Central Young Mizo Association, a charity that works on anti-trafficking programmes.
"This young girl will now inspire others and bring attention to the problem," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The National Bravery Awards are given to around 25 children between the ages of six and 18 every year.
The recipients, selected from across India, are given a medal, a certificate, a cash prize, and also receive financial assistance to complete their schooling.
In the past, children have won awards for foiling robberies, fighting off armed intruders, rescuing people from drowning, saving lives in a stampede and putting out fires.
"We are very proud and happy," said Lalsangzeli, Malsawmtluangi's mother. "The entire village will celebrate my brave daughter." - Reuters
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