THE UTTAR Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UPSCPCR) has ordered a probe into the alleged violation of rights of a 12-year-old girl, who is currently swimming from Kanpur to Varanasi — a distance of 570 km.
The girl, Shraddha Shukla, had started swimming in Ganga on August 28 at 11.10 am and is set to reach Varanasi on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker, Vinod Kapri, has lodged a complaint with the police in Mirzapur district on Saturday accusing the girl’s father, Lalit Shukla, of threatening him. Kapri, who has filmed the girl for seven days, has claimed that Shukla had misbehaved with him when he questioned why Shraddha was covering most of the distance on a boat.
Lalit too had lodged a cross complaint against Kapri. Police have provided both security till they leave Mirzapur.
UPSCPCR chairperson Juhie Singh said: “I have sent a letter to the Kanpur district magistrate on Sunday, soon after a member of the commission in the city informed me about the controversy. I have asked the DM to inquire into all aspects, including whether the father was violating child rights.” When contacted, Kanpur DM Kaushal Raj Sharma said, “I have handed over the probe to the additional city magistrate.”
Lalit, a contractor from Kanpur, said Shraddha herself took up the challenge and intended to swim around 70 km every day. In 2014, she had swam from Kanpur to Allahabad covering 280 km, he claimed.
“We had prepared for the tour for the last two months. We had requested our relatives, friends and some private divers to help her in the exercise. We have also arranged for a doctor, who is our family friend, to attend to her,” said Lalit, adding that the motive for the tour was to spread message of ‘Clean Ganga’ and also to check the girl’s capacity as she wanted to represent India in the Olympics.
During her tour, Shraddha was accompanied by Lalit, uncle Mahesh Shukla and six private divers on two boats. Women and elderly relatives travelled along with them in a SUV.
“A net has been thrown between two boats to ensure that Shraddha does not go deep. After every 15 to 20 km, we stop our boats and pull her out of the water. We apply cream on her body and give her something to eat. We have made eight night halts before we reached Mirzapur on Sunday,” Lalit said, adding that Shraddha had started swimming at the age of three.
Asked about dispute between him and Kapri, Lalit claimed the filmmaker was shooting without entering into an agreement with him.
“When I asked him to stop and complete formalities, he threatened me and demanded Rs 2 lakh, which he had spent so far on the shooting,” he alleged.
Kapri, on the other hand, claimed that he had called up Lalit after he came to know that a 12-year-old girl was swimming from Kanpur to Varanasi. “For two days, I, along with three of my associates, travelled on Lalit Shukla’s boat. We found that most of the time, the girl travelled in the boat instead of swimming. She used to swim before they approached a ghat or when there are people around. She used to spend rest of the time on the boat,” he said.
Claiming that Lalit got irritated when he was questioned, Kapri said he soon hired a motor boat for himself and his team. On Saturday, while waiting near Vindhychal ghat in Mirzapur, Kapri said he spotted Lalit’s boats and started filming. “As we approached them, we found the girl sitting in the boat with her father and shot a video. Soon, Shukla started hurling abuses and issued life threats,” he added.