Monday, November 29, 1999

Child marriages solemnised on Akshaya Tritiya

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Bundi (Rajasthan), May 16 (PTI) Several minor boys and girls were reportedly married on Akshaya Tritiya despite administrative alert and close vigil by non-government agencies to prevent child marriages in the state. The marriages were solemnised secretly in mass marriage ceremonies organised by Mali, Meena, Gujjar and Nai (barber) communities at different places in Bundi district. However, district authorities have denied reports of such incidents here. According to sources, about two dozen minors from Mali community were brought for marriage in early hours on Saturday at Gothera village in Hindoli block, about 30 kms from here. Lady Supervisor of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Jareena Khan in Gothera village confirmed the child marriages in Mali community, saying "They performed the marriages two days before Akha Teej on late night of May 14". The ASHA-Sayogani and Anganwadi workers did not speak of the incidents due to fear of their elders in the community, Asha Meena, another lady supervisor of the same area in Hindoli block, claimed. Sub-inspector Ramkaran of the area, however, said "we have not received any report of child marriage in the area, but if it happens, we would investigate into the matter." Eyewitness said the minors were kept hidden during visits of police and administrative officials on Friday night and tied the knot on Saturday morning. Such incidents were also reported to have taken place in mass marriage ceremonies organised by Gujjars in Hindoli and Keshoraipatan towns of the district. Shanker Lal Gujjar, on returning from one such event from Hindoli, told PTI that villagers were clandestinely marrying their children in mass marriages despite strict legal and administrative restriction on such practice. "Child marriages are taking place in community mass marriage ceremonies under the cover of adult marriages," a professional photographer, seeking anonymity, said. However, sub-inspector Phool Chand (Hindoli police station) claimed there had been no child marriage in the area. "We are ready to take action against those involved in child marriages as soon as we receive the reports," he said. The Nai community is also reported to have conducted a mass marriage ceremony, where some minors were married, at Alod village about 16 kms from here. Child Development Project Officer of ICDS (Talera block) Mohani Vijay also said a few complaints of child marriages were received from Karjuna and Neem Ka Kheda villages in the district.

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