Krishnagar, Aug. 28: Rashid Sheikh of Ranaghat is torn between his daughter and the people among whom he has to live. Or rather he was' till society steamrolled his love for Salma.
The 19-year-old (name changed on request) was sold off to a brothel in Calcutta by some of her relatives 14 months ago. She managed to flee the place on Thursday and reach her house at Srinathpur in Ranaghat, 65 km from the city.
But Rashid refused to take her back for fear that he will be ostracised by neighbours.
'My daughter is my praan (life), but I can't take her back because I have to live in this village that will neither forgive nor allow her to forget the sordid chapter,' Rashid said today. 'I have two more daughters and I will have to think about their marriage. If I allow her to stay at my house, no fellow villager will talk to me.'
Faced with the rejection, Salma had few options. She went to her sister Tahamina's house at Kalinarayanpur ' a station away from Ranaghat on the way to Krishnagar ' where she is now staying.
Police swung into action immediately after receiving a complaint from the girl today and arrested three persons 'Salma's aunt Akali Bibi, her husband Jainal Sheikh and his sister Anwara Khatun ' on charges of selling her.
An effort was also initiated to convince Rashid to take back his daughter, but that proved futile. 'The girl is now with her elder sister. If she is driven out from there, we will have no option but to send her to a home for destitute women,' said R. Rajsekharan, the Nadia superintendent of police.
Tahamina works with a self-help group. Her husband Rafique is a farmer. Salma does not know how long they would be able to bear with the stigma.
Salma said she had asked her father for some money to buy a pair of imitation earrings. 'When he refused to meet my demand, I cried and left home. I went straight to my aunt's house at Gangapur, about 15 km away.'
According to the complaint Salma lodged, her aunt drugged her the night she reached her house. 'Next day, I woke up only to find myself confined in a small room,' she recounted. 'On my return, I repeatedly told my father that I did not go to the brothel on my own. It was his relatives who sold me there. But all my pleas fell on deaf ears. He drove me out.'
A young man who frequented the brothel apparently helped her escape. Salma said: 'I would cry always. He assured that he would help me get out of the place. I cannot reveal his name' I promised him.
'I don't know how long I will be able to stay at my sister's house. If she drives me out.... At the brothel, I used to cry for my parents. When I managed to return to them, they turned their backs on me,'she said. Tears rolled down.