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MP: Dearth of women causing abduction

Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | July 12, 2005 20:58 IST

Ashok Kumar, a tribal from Madhya Pradesh, had the courage to narrate his sordid tales to the media in New Delhi.

Belonging to the Kora tribe, Kumar, in his 40s, came all the way from Harrai village in Chindwara district in Madhya Pradesh seeking justice for his 15-year-old daughter Anita who was abducted, sold and finally married.

In a way, he exposed the complex problem and social reality of sex selection, female foeticide, infanticide, poverty and greed.

He was able to highlight his problems, perhaps, because he had a number of activists, including actress Nandita Das, to support him. His case may be similar to those of hundreds of tribals living in villages.

The voluntary group Anhad called a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday to highlight the issue.

Kumar, who works as a helper in a grocery shop, has five daughters. The eldest of them is Anita. She was allegedly abducted on March 14, 2005.

Ashok Nair and Shyamabai Nair knew the Kumar family well as they used to live in Nair's rented house. The couple allegedly abducted the girl and lured her to Agra.

The father says the girl was drugged and hypnotised while being taken to Agra. 

In the city of the Taj Mahal, she was sold to one Umesh Tyagi, who is a driver by profession, allegedly for Rs 60,000. Tyagi married her in April.

Activists of Anhad, which has taken up such cases, say many girls are abducted or lured from tribal areas and sold to people around Agra as this region has little female population. It is difficult for men to find women for marriage, indicating an increasing male-female ratio imbalance.

Tyagi's family, which allegedly bought Anita, defends the act by saying that they only wanted to give 'a good life to a poor girl', notwithstanding her age. Legally, Indian women are eligible to marry only at the age of 18.

Describing the situation, activists allege that it was clearly a pre-planned move, as Anita and some other girls from the region had been photographed in fancy clothes and lured into a vicious game.

People involved in this trade are primarily groups of men and women from the neighbouring district of Narasinghpur who were linked with a few local people.

Anita, as of now, wants to stay with her 'in-laws' in Agra as there is no future for her back home in her village in Chindwara.

After lot of pressure, the police in her village lodged a complaint against five people, including her husband Tyagi and the Nairs for kidnapping Anita. A case has also been filled for child marriage, Anita's father said.

All of them are absconding.

As Anita's plight was taken by the activists, several other cases also came to the fore indicating a trend of abduction of poor young girls for marriage and prostitution.

Another story is that of a girl called Chhotibai, who was also kidnapped, by a distant relative on the pretext of taking her on a pilgrimage. This happened in September 2004.

Like in Chhotibai's case, many other cases reach a dead end with complaints to the police, who never seem to locate the girls. Parents feel totally helpless and live in despair for the rest of their lives.

Buribai, another 15-year-old tribal girl, was kidnapped by a man much older than her. He abandoned his wife and three children and went away with Buribai.

The reason for this kidnapping is unclear and the case was not followed as no formal report was lodged by the police even after the parents complained to them.

Another tribal girl (who does not wish to reveal her name) was cheated and taken by a man from a higher social strata.

The girl however, became suspicious and jumped from the jeep near a railway crossing, but had no idea where she was or where she was being taken. Now she is back with her parents, but no report has been filed with the police.

Activist Daya Bai, who works in the region, said: "Now that these cases are coming out, hopefully we'll be able to nab the culprits and expose an exploitation chain and make the girls feel safer."

"When we took up Anita's case, many other parents came up to us with similar incidents. Their fear is apparent, in that they are even apprehensive to send their daughters to the primary school now as they dread someone might kidnap their daughters."

The activists allege that it is horrifying for the villagers of the region to know that people can take away their minor girls to far off cities and then sell them.

Girls are brainwashed, hypnotised, made unconscious and then kidnapped. The adolescent girls are often threatened to keep their mouth shut and forced to tell a lie in front of the police, if at all the case reaches that far. The girls are sometimes shown adult films, drugged and gradually prepared for prostitution.

Activist and actress Nandita Das said: "There is a growing dearth of girls in some regions due to rampant female foeticide and infanticide, and so this becomes an easy way to procure girls for those regions. Caste, economic status and region etc in such cases seem to have little significance."

"We feel it's a matter of great concern as several laws are being violated as child marriage, abduction, trafficking and abuse are continuing unabated. A change can only happen if the media gives sustained attention to create a critical mass on this issue and the court punishes the culprits and provides protection to the girls and their families," she continued.


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