Stop-knot plea to cops:13-yr-old class topper stalls Forced Child wedding
Islampur, Feb. 24: A 13-year-old class topper ran away from home in an Islampur village yesterday evening and turned up at a police outpost pleading for help to escape the marriage fixed by her mother that was supposed to have taken place today.
The marriage was called off after Seema (name changed) complained against her mother, saying she was being forcibly married off though she was good in studies and wanted to complete school. The groom had also taken Rs 10,000 as advance dowry.
Seema broke down soon after she arrived at the police station around 7pm. For the Class VIII student of a high school in Pamolhat in Goalpokhar, this was her first trip outside home all by herself. A desperate Seema had taken a trekker to reach the outpost 12km from her home on the advice of her best friend in school. “I felt bad complaining about my mother. But I didn’t know what to do. It was then that a friend of mine advised me to approach the police,” the girl said as she sobbed uncontrollably this morning. She is now staying with her aunt at Pamolhat itself.
She told the police that her father, a farm labourer, died four years ago and her mother was of a “very stubborn” nature. “My mother works as a domestic help and my elder sister is married. I have a brother who studies in Class V. I am good in studies but my mother is forcing me to get married. I want to study, please help me,” Seema told the police.
She said her mother and the two matchmakers had arranged her marriage to Sudarshan Mondal, a 26-year-old carpenter’s assistant from Ramganj in Islampur, a month ago.
The sub-inspector in charge of the outpost, T.N. Bhutia, sent a vehicle and brought the girl’s mother and elder sister to the police outpost yesterday evening. “We made them write a declaration that they would not force the girl to get married,” Bhutia said.
He said the police would start a case against the groom, matchmaker Sukhlal Biswas and his associate under the Prohibition of Child Marriages Act. If convicted, they can be jailed for two years or fined up to Rs 1 lakh or both.
Headmistress Ruma Das said she was proud of her student Seema. “She stood up against something that is our responsibility, to prevent child marriages. Seema is the best girl in the class. We on behalf of the school will help her in all ways,” she said