In her book, Churning Waters, author Meredith T Taylor writes, "My life had become a puzzle – its pieces scattered about like paper in the wind, with no one there to chase but me". The pain and grief filled in these words turned true in the case of a 15-year old Komal Varma (name changed) from Saharsa district of Bihar.
The naïve and innocent girl hailing from an impoverished family was sold as a commodity by her own close relatives for child marriage in Bundi, a remote place in Rajasthan last year. She was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) activists in July, an organization founded by Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.
False Promises For Marriage
The courageous girl lived with her four siblings and parents in her native village. Her maternal uncle Jogi Surma, her maternal aunt Vimla and her cousin brother Niraj used to visit Komal's home in Saharsa. Her uncle, aunt and cousin brother made up false stories before Komal and her family members that would get Komal married to a rich family in Rajasthan. The marriage will benefit her as it will allow her fulfill her dreams to study and earn in future and get out of the abysmal life that she leads in her native village.
Komal fell for her uncle's false promises and one night, she sneaked out of her home without even informing her parents or any of his siblings. Jogi Surma took Komal along with him to Kota in Rajasthan by train and then travelled to a nearby village, Itawa in Balbir Meena's vehicle.
Komal and Jogi Surma spent one day at Balbir Meena's home, the following day, Balbir invited Motilal Bairwa, his wife Sarita Bairwa, his daughter Jyoti, her husband Akash Singh and Prakash Bairwa to his house. Jogi Surma and Balbir Meena then got Komal married to Prakash Bairwa at Balbir's home. According to Komal, all these events happened at such a fast pace that she could not understand what was happening in her life and where will it lead her into.
Sold By 'Uncle', Refused To Let Go
The marriage was performed without any rituals but with a garland around her neck and vermillion (sindoor) on her head, Komal believed she is now happily married to Prakash. The newlyweds moved to Prakash's native home in Bundi, Rajasthan where they consummated their marriage with mutual consent.
Komal's dream, however, got shattered after her father came to meet her in Bundi at her in-law's place and stayed for 8 days. When Komal sought permission from her in-laws to accompany her father to her home in Saharsa, her in-laws not only refused to let her go but also demanded a sum of Rs. 1,60,000 from her father. Komal's in-laws told her father that they had paid the amount to her uncle, Jogi Surma and Balbir Meena to buy Komal for marriage.
Komal and her father then realized that her own uncle has sold her for "child marriage" without even informing her family and led her into a trap. Komal's father then made a failed attempt to register a case against Jogi Surma and other accused and later sought the help of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan team in Bihar. The prompt response and timely action by Bachpan Bachao Andolan teams in Bihar and Rajasthan enabled police to rescue Komal and register a case against all the accused.
After being rescued the poor girl was found to be four months pregnant but she aborted her pregnancy as she was unwilling to accept the injustices done to her by Jogi Surma, her own uncle who sold her like a commodity.
Dreams Of Becoming Social Activist
The little girl, who is full of life and with her own dreams, now lives with her parents in Saharsa and looks forward to becoming a social activist when she grows up.
This is just one story, describing the struggles of Komal Varma who was fortunate to find freedom, but there are many such Komal Varmas who are sold as child brides every day in our country. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2020, a total of 785 cases were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act.
In 2019, 523 cases were registered under the act, while in 2018, 501 cases were lodged. Civil society groups claim the NCRB data reveals not only there has been an increase in child marriages but there has also been a rise in reporting of these incidents.
It is needless to add that while our glorious country proudly celebrates the 75th anniversary of our Independence. Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav will be genuinely celebrated when such innocent lives like Komal enjoy life in freedom and are not sold and bought like animals.
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