The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minors marry, parents in knots

Siliguri, April 27: The marriage of two minors, Ram and Reshmi, not only proved a very short-lived affair for them, but also led to the arrest of their parents, who are now tied in legal knots.

The entire drama began when Ram Sahani (aged about 16) and Reshmi Sahani (aged about 12) tied the knot last night, and culminated today in the arrest of the bride's parents, Sambhu Sahani and Kalawati, and the groom's mother, Purny. The minor duo, on the other hand, is being kept in the safe custody of the police.

While the girl's father is a labourer and lives at Santoshinagar near Jalpai More here, the boy's family hails from Samastipur in Bihar. The details about the boy's family background, however, could not be established.

Both the girl and the boy are illiterate.

Siliguri additional superintendent of police Kallol Ganai said the police got wind of the marriage around 11 last night and a team from the Siliguri police station was immediately sent to the spot, but by then the marriage had already been solemnised.

On making inquiries, the police found that both the bride and the groom were not of marriageable age. They and their parents were then taken to the police station, where all of them were forced to spend the night. Today, the parents were formally arrested under Section 6 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. They will be produced in court tomorrow.

The father of the girl said that though he was aware that child marriage was illegal, he did not think much about it since such practice is very common in his native Bihar. 'Besides, poverty also forced us to arrange the marriage since the groom's parents did not ask for any dowry,' said Sambhu, whose two elder daughters are still unmarried.

The arrival of the police last night was preceded by a small commotion as some local people objected to the marriage. Saroj Goenka, councillor of ward 5, under which Santoshinagar falls, had also reached the spot and voiced her objections.

'I came to know about the incident late night, but by the time I reached the spot the marriage had already taken place. Child marriage is illegal and shouldn't happen. We have asked the police to take stern action against the parents so that such unpleasant incidents do not occur in our town,' said Goenka.

Social activists said that yesterday's incident is not a one-off thing, and that instances of child marriage are quite prevalent among the underprivileged sections of the society, but mostly go unreported.

'In the urban areas, it is mostly prevalent among Hindi-speaking people belonging to the lower strata of the society... We receive so many cases specially of under age marriage,' said Surojit Adhikary, a counsellor at the Family Counselling Centre here.

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