For the last one-and-a-half years, 15-year-old Nazia (name changed) has not been to school. The reason: Her 20-year-old neighbour, who wants to marry her forcibly, keeps on threatening and stalking her and had also kidnapped her.
Nazia, hailing from a small village at Ratua in Malda, has since been running from pillar to post to ensure that she can continue with her studies. On Wednesday, she attended a programme on child marriage in Malda and spoke on her ordeal. When mediapersons thronged her small mud house on Thursday, she initially refused to come out.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Nazia said: “This is why child marriages continue here. We are girls and have to follow social compulsions. I want to continue with my studies. But my parents are weak and scared of the threats. They are continuously receiving threats from villagers.
My parents have bowed to them, but I have not.” “I went to Malda, 40 km from my village, several times with my elder brother. I met administration officials and sought help. I also went to the Ratua police station and asked for security. Nothing happened. How would I continue with my studies?” she asked.
“I never asked for money. I only asked for my right to study and not to get married. My neighbour always stalks me. They kidnapped me a year ago and I was rescued from North-24 Parganas after four days. My family lodged a complaint. He was arrested but was granted bail after 14 days,” Nazia further said.
She added: “We were so scared that I could not go to school for the last one-and-a-half years. During examinations, I elder brother accompanies me to the school. I would appear for my Class X Boards next year and I am not getting any support.” Nazia goes to a madrasa, which is 3 km from her house.
“I took the number of a child helpline from a friend. I gave a missed call to the number, as I did not have any money to make a call. They called me back and promised that they would help me. But nothing happened,” she said.
“People praise Malala Yousafzai (Nobel peace prize winner from Pakistan) because she fought against child marriage and for the education of the girl child. I have also been inspired by her. But when I beg to be allowed to study, why am I ignored? Why no NGO or the administration helps me out?” she asks.
Nazia’s father, a farmer, said: “We are scared as they attack my house very often. The police did not help me. My daughter is determined to continue with her studies. She is so brave. Now, we have decided to stand by her side.”
It was only on Thursday that a team from the district administration went to visit Nazia at her house.
When contacted about the complaint Nazia had lodged against her neighbour, a police officer said: “This is an old case, I will have to look for the case papers and then only can comment.”