She was 16 when she married a man from Rajasthan. Now 20, the case of sexual exploitation she filed against her husband and 16 others, including Union Minister of State Nihal Chand, comes up for hearing in a Jaipur court.
ESHA ROY travels to Sirsa in Haryana and Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan to listen to her story
There are two things that set the 20-year-old apart from the rest of the girls in her village. Her height — she stands tall at 5’8’’ — and her courage. “Woh to bahut himmatwali hai,’’ says 60-year-old Hanuman Shroff Ranjit, one of the elders in Abubshahar, a village in Sirsa district that sits on the cusp of Haryana and Rajasthan. It’s this “himmat”, they say, that got her to lodge a complaint of sexual exploitation against her husband Om Prakash Godara and 16 others, including BJP MoS for Chemicals and Fertilisers in the Narendra Modi Cabinet Nihal Chand Meghwal.
She was married off at the age of 16. “Because she is so tall, people in the village kept telling us to get her married. We were under a lot of pressure. She was independent even as a child and would cycle five kilometres to go to school. But in our villages, girls need to be married off and with her height, we were worried we wouldn’t find a match. Her father’s brother told us about Om Prakash, who was from Pilibanga in Rajasthan. Om Prakash told us he was a property developer and seemed very well-off. We were taken in. He seemed like a big man. We thought our daughter’s future was made, we thought this alliance would make her happy,’’ says her mother.
These days, she shuttles between her parents’ home in Abubshahar and her maternal uncle’s home in Sadulshahar that’s across the border in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district. “This is to ensure that she is safe. She spends three days here and three days with her maternal uncle. We have received threats from Om Prakash that he will abduct her and our other three daughters as well,’’ says her mother.
The market is considered the largest cloth market in Asia and it houses a number of textile units and factories.