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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Sold into marriage, Assam minor, now a mother, returns home from Rajasthan

Sold into an abusive marriage, she began the 2,500-km journey home Wednesday along with her father and Assam Police officers — and her one-year-old child.

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Jaipur |
Updated: September 24, 2021 7:38:20 am
A phone call to her brother, whose number she had memorised, helped her family discover her location, reveals her statement to the Barmer Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

In January last year, the family of a minor girl, then 14, got an FIR filed in Assam’s Dhubri district after she went missing.

More than a year later, in September, the girl was rescued from Rajasthan’s Barmer district, near the westernmost tip of the country. Sold into an abusive marriage, she began the 2,500-km journey home Wednesday along with her father and Assam Police officers — and her one-year-old child.

A phone call to her brother, whose number she had memorised, helped her family discover her location, reveals her statement to the Barmer Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

The girl’s case is one of the thousands of instances of trafficking of women and children from North Eastern states such as Assam and Tripura to Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi and Haryana, where they are also often used as bonded labourers, said Nirmal Gorana, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour.

It was Gorana who sent an email on September 13 to the Barmer SP, the Assam police, and authorities in the two states about the whereabouts of the girl and her pleas to return home. He had been alerted by Assam-based advocate Anwar Ahmed Hussain, who was in touch with the girl’s family.

The local police rescued the girl on the same night after the email from Gorana. She was presented before the Barmer CWC on September 14.

“When we were informed about the case on the night of September 13, we went to the house of the man in search of the girl. While the man was not found, after the girl came to know the police had arrived, she came running to us and told us about her ordeal, pleading with us to take her away,” said Lalit Kishor, SHO of the police station in Barmer which mounted the rescue.

According to the girl’s statement before the CWC in Barmer, she was sold and forcibly married off to the Barmer man. He allegedly didn’t let her return to her parents, saying he had spent money to buy her. The girl said she was physically abused and tortured.

“When I speak on phone, he starts beating me, keeps me locked and would insert sticks between my fingers to hurt me and would say that if I went or spoke with someone, he would kill me,” the girl said in her statement to the CWC.

The statement says that the man didn’t let her speak with anyone for several months. It was only after the child was born that he let her use the phone.

“The girl, who is a Muslim, told us that despite her refusal, she was threatened and forced to marry the man from Barmer as per Hindu rituals. Thereafter, a son was born to her. She managed to contact her brother whose number she had memorised,” said advocate Chetanram Saran, chairperson of the Barmer CWC.

The girl told the CWC that she had left her home with a friend but was drugged and brought to Delhi. There, she was left with strangers who threatened to kill her parents and forced her to marry the Barmer man.

“On Wednesday, she was handed over to her father and the Assam police who came to Barmer. She told us that she wants to take the child along with her,” Saran said.

In an order passed on Wednesday, the Barmer CWC said that after taking into consideration that an FIR has been registered in Assam (under Section 366A, which deals with the procurement of a minor girl) and the fact that the girl is a victim of sexual violence, she is being transferred to the jurisdiction of the Dhubri CWC.

SHO Kishor said the Barmer man has not been arrested yet because action will be taken by the Assam police. “We will proceed as per the instructions of the Assam police because the FIR has been registered there. Since the girl is a minor, more sections related to offences under the POCSO Act and charges of rape can be added,” said the SHO.

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