Gujarat businessman Bharat Kumar Suthar at Chandankyari police station, near Bokaro steel city, after his arrest on Monday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
In a candid pointer to India’s skewed sex ratio, a Gujarat businessman made a desperate attempt to marry a Jharkhand teenager by choosing the right bait of Rs 40,000 for her poor father.
Fortunately, villagers intervened on time resulting in the arrest of the prospective groom and his five aides. The incident took place in Babugram, a village in Chandankyari block 32km from Bokaro steel city, on Sunday night.
According to police, Bharat Kumar Suthar (32), who runs a furniture business in Bhuj, was unable to find a suitable bride in his native state apparently because he has a stammering problem. When he shared his predicament with a trade acquaintance, Jahan Ansari, the latter — who also hails from the Chandankyari village — offered a promising solution.
Ansari told Suthar that he could arrange his wedding with a 15-year-old of his village if he paid the girl’s father — a daily labourer burdened with four daughters — some money. Ansari, his father Rohan Ansari and uncle Kayum Ansari, who live in Babugram, cajoled the girl’s father and the deal was settled at Rs 40,000.
On Sunday evening, Suthar, two of his friends from Gujarat and Ansari, his father and uncle reached Babugram for the ceremony. The wedding was to be solemnised at 9pm at Chechkadham Temple in Chidka village, 35km from Chandankyari in Purulia district of Bengal.
Though a little too far, the temple — dedicated to Lord Shiva — is revered by local residents and most weddings of Chandankyari take place in Chidka.
However, before parents could take the teenager to go to the temple for what they told her would be a routine puja, villagers got wind of what the poor couple were actually up to and informed Bangaria police outpost. The groom, the father of the bride and all the five “baratis” were detained and ferried to Chandankyari police station, 8km away.
Chas (Bokaro) DSP B. Kullu confirmed the incident. He said the girl, a student of Class IX at Bijulia High School in Chandankyari, was a minor and told police that she wanted to complete her studies.
“Besides being underage, she was being married off against her wish. She told the local police that her father had tried to sell her because she was the eldest among her sisters and had become a burden for him,” Kullu said.
The DSP added that six of the detained were arrested at 4pm on Monday. “The father of the victim has been let off with a warning. The girl is a minor and child marriage is a social evil that needs to be dealt with an iron fist. People taking advantage of someone’s economic condition cannot be spared,” he said.
How can child marriage be curbed in Jharkhand?