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Curse cuts off hands
A child couple who got married on Wednesday

Dhar (Madhya Pradesh), May 11: The hands of a woman who has been campaigning against child marriage have been chopped off on the eve of the biggest spectacle of the social curse in Madhya Pradesh.

A youth cut off the hands of Shakuntala Verma, a supervisor in the child and welfare department, last evening after knocking on her door on the pretext of seeking directions to a house.

Her apparent crime was that she had been touring and discouraging people in and around Bhanpur village in Dhar, around 250 km from the state capital Bhopal.

After a nine-hour surgery, doctors at a private hospital in Indore said Shakuntala is out of danger.

Hours after the macabre attack, over 50,000 marriages took place in Madhya Pradesh to mark Akshaya Tritiya, which falls once a year. Weddings can take place on this day without priests who charge money to set the auspicious hour for the rites.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur declined to link the assault to the child marriages. “After speaking to officials, I do not think that the matter has got anything to do with child marriages,” Gaur said over phone from Delhi.

“It is not possible to stop it (child marriage). Have we been able to end alcoholism or untouchability' If Gandhiji could not succeed in this, how can Babulal Gaur'” the BJP leader later asked reporters.

Two days ago, Gaur had created a flutter by ruling out “serious action” against offenders in child marriage cases. “Social customs are stronger than laws,” he said.

But Shakuntala’s brother Sushil said she had been getting threats after visiting Bhanpur village on May 3. He said Shakuntala had warned the villagers that she would scrutinise the birth certificates of all grooms and brides on May 11.

Some people living in Shakuntala’s neighbourhood said she could also have been a victim of superstition. Citing her short hair, a few villagers had been running a whisper campaign that she has occult powers.

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