After 40 years, Gumara village in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh will witness the marriage of a girl born there.
The long wait is due to the cruel fact that the villagers did not allow a girl child to survive as they either killed it in the womb or soon after the birth.
A conspiracy of silence ensured no one complained to the authorities.The scenario started to change after 2003.
That is when the government effectively started implementing the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, enacted by Parliament in 1994.
According to the data provided by the women and child development department, the child sex ratio was 10:0 in 1995, 10:2 in 2001 and jumped to 10: 7 in 2011.
The lucky bride, Arti Gurjar, 18, is getting married in December this year. She was supposed marry in March, but the ceremony was postponed due to her Class 12 exams.
Another girl from the village Rachna Gurjar will also get married this year. “I don’t have many friends. There are just a few girls of my age in the village. So, I dedicate my whole time to my studies. I want to be a doctor and will continue my studies after the marriage,” Arti said.
More than being excited about the impending celebration, the elderly men in the village are more interested in hiding it in a bid to gloss over the ugly truth — most families in the village are guilty of killing at least one girl child. When HT team visited the village, Ramsaran Gurjar, a local resident, said it was a conspiracy hatched by some people to give the village a bad name.
But when asked about the last marriage being solemnised there, Ramsaran asked the team to leave the village.
However, the women and youngsters are excited to be a part of the celebrations. “I have never seen any marriage of a girl in my village. I am very excited,” said 16-year-old Akash Gurjar.
Womenfolk are obviously the happiest of the lot. For them freedom has come almost 70 years after India attained freedom.
“Earlier, women in this village were scared of chuna (lime), milk and tobacco while delivering a baby, because if a girl child was born, these items were used to kill her. But now things have changed. The fear of the law and women in the village played an important role to bring about the positive change,” said Rajeshwari Gurjar, 48.
Another village woman said, “The girl child was treated not only as a burden but also inauspicious for the family. The villagers didn’t allow any pregnant lady to come in contact with a woman who had given birth to a girl child. I gave birth to a girl child 20 years ago, the family members didn’t dare to kill the girl child, but they forced me not to provide any food and care to her. My daughter died of starvation.”
Women child and development department joint director Suresh Tomar said, “After the enactment of the PCPNDT Act, things have changed. The catalyst was the arrest of a former sarpanch for killing his newborn baby-girl.” “Bhind is the only district in MP which has shown growth of 20 points in the sex ratio in the last census. But still it is the third worst district in the state in terms of poor child sex ratio,” he said.