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Students thwart sale of girls

Chandigarh, April 22: A group of quick-thinking schoolgirls foiled an attempt by a father to sell his two minor daughters last Sunday when they forced the headmaster to take action and rescue the girls, both students of their school.

The girls, both under 10, were being sold by Bhupal Singh, a farm labourer of Harisinghpura village in Haryana, to repay a loan he had taken from his brother.

Gharaunda police in Karnal district have registered a case against unnamed persons. “The matter is under investigation,” said Karnal deputy commissioner R.S. Doon, unwilling to say anything more, as “any statement would derail the probe”.

A senior official of the district administration said Bhupal had taken Rs 50,000 from the youths to repay his brother Dharam. “Dharam had been forcing him to repay the amount. Being a farm labourer, Bhupal’s earnings were not enough for him to repay his brother. He spoke to his wife Krishna about an offer for the daughters and she agreed to the proposal,” the official said.

On Sunday, 10 people, including the two “bridegrooms”, descended on the village to marry the two students of Sanskar Bharati School, one of Class VII and the other of Class III.

Bhupal had earlier been given Rs 50,000 by the bridegrooms, who were from the nearby Sagga village. He had given more then half of it to his brother, while the rest was spent on wedding arrangements.

The weddings would have gone without a hitch but for the schoolgirls who rushed to the headmaster to narrate the tale. “Initially, I did not know what to do,” headmaster Sukhbir Singh said over the phone. “But I was forced by my students to take some action and prevent the wedding. Some had even started crying. I called a few teachers and left for Harisinghpura immediately.”

At Harisinghpura, Sukhbir and the others met with resistance, both from Bhupal and his wife and the youths from Sagga and their relatives. “We finally won after threatening them that they would be jailed. The threat forced the youths, in their twenties, to leave after a fracas with their relatives,” Sukhbir said.

But the matter did not end there. Bhupal rushed to the police station to complain that he was being forced to cut short the wedding of his daughters. A constable who was sent to inquire returned, requesting that the station officer personally investigate the case.

District police chief P.K. Agarwal said the matter was being investigated by an assistant superintendent of police.

A senior district official, however, said the incident was being blown out of proportion “as such cases of minor girls being forced to marry grown-up boys are becoming very common”.

He said the sex ratio in Haryana has “dipped to an alarming level” and boys are finding it difficult to get girls. “Some people are also going out of the state to marry. It is ironic that the government is turning a blind eye to the problem. But we are happy that the girls’ classmates realised the wrong that was being perpetrated on the two girls. This is a small beginning.”

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