PATNA: Ending child marriages in Bihar could well prove a task tougher than organising statewide events to spread awareness against it. The wedding of a minor girl just a day after a massive human chain was formed has left the authorities shocked and wary.
Ramrekha Ghat in the western town of Buxar witnessed the wedding of 14-year-old Neelam Kumari, a resident of Mathila village in the district, with full Vedic rituals on Monday. While officials of the local administration and police were informed when the wedding was in progress, nobody turned up to stop it, said sources.
Before the station house officer of the local police station, Dayanand, reached the spot, the minor girl had left with her husband, Arvind Kumar, 26, said to be a resident of Tirwa village in Lucknow district of Uttar Pradesh.
It was ironical that Neelam had herself participated in the gigantic human chain against the social evils of dowry and child marriages organised by the Bihar government across the state on Sunday.
Neelam Kumari had been living with her maternal uncle, Munna Bhar, for the past several years as her poor father was unable to support her. Her two elder sisters had been married off, reportedly before they turned 16, said sources.
Sources said Santosh Bharti, a member of the district children’s welfare committee, was informed by some people over phone when the wedding was about to start, but he said he was in Patna and could not come. Although he assured that someone on his behalf would come along with police to stop the wedding, nobody turned up till the newlywed couple and all their relatives left the wedding site.
“I was approached by the bridegroom’s father, Babulal Singh, to find a suitable bride for him. The girl’s uncle urged me to organise the wedding as soon as possible,” Rajendra Prasad Singh, a local man who facilitated the wedding, was quoted as saying.
After learning of the incident, Buxar SP Rakesh Kumar ordered a probe on Tuesday. Police are trying to ascertain the bridegroom’s age and the people involved in organising the wedding, said Dayanand, the SHO.
Bihar ranks second in the country in the high prevalence of child marriages at 39.1 per cent. A recent study by NGO Gender Alliance found the prevalence of under-age marriages in Bihar close to 50 per cent in 340 blocks of the state.