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Dad held for bid to marry off minor

Islampur, Nov. 24: The father of a 12-year-old girl has been arrested for trying to marry her off to a youth more than double her age based on her aunt’s complaint. The prospective groom and the matchmaker were also picked up — the first arrests in North Dinajpur district under the prohibition of child marriage law.

Nilmoni Oraon had complained to police about the wedding, which was supposed to take place yesterday afternoon, after she had failed to convince the family about the hazards of child marriage.

Karandighi police arrested the father and small time farmer Raghunath Oraon, the prospective 25-year-old groom Shibranjan Oraon and matchmaker and neighbour Kalicharan from Dipapara. The arrests were made in the presence of the block development officer Sambhudeep Sarkar and panchayat samiti sabhapati Shankar Hembram.

“The girl’s aunt failed to convince the father that he should not get his daughter married at a tender age and when her advice was turned down, she complained to the police as well as me,” BDO Sarkar said.

He said the complaint was lodged on Tuesday.

The BDO said the wedding was to take place yesterday. “The girl’s mother had died and she was raised by her step-mother. We have sent the girl to the Surjodaya government home in Raiganj,” he said.

Sarkar said the girl and the arrested men were produced in the court of acting additional chief judicial magistrate, Smritirupa Majhi.

Additional public prosecutor Mrinmoy Banerjee said a case had been started under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which is non-bailable.

“To my knowledge this is the first time that such an arrest has been made in the district and the first case started under the Act. The punishment for the guilty is two years rigorous imprisonment or a fine or both,” Banerjee said.

According to police sources, the father had said he had wanted to get his daughter married off, as he had no money to raise her. She was a student of Class V at Altapur High School.

The BDO said the government would help her complete her schooling at the Raiganj shelter. “If any adult from her family wants to take care of her, they will have to take the girl’s consent and also give a written undertaking to the court,” Sarkar said.

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