Police have launched a manhunt to trace a 35-year-old panchayat member in Rajasthan after he allegedly married a six-year-old girl earlier this week, officials said on Saturday, highlighting a widely prevalent social evil in the western state.
The incident took place at Gangrar in Chitorgarh district five days ago but authorities got wind of the marriage only after photographs of the bride and groom began circulating in the mobile networking service WhatsApp.
On Saturday, the Gangrar sub-divisional magistrate filed a case with police against accused Ratan Lal Jat, a ward panch of Gangrar panchayat, said Prasanna Kumar Khamesara, the Chitorgarh superintendent of police (SP).
Police have also named the husband of deputy sarpanch, Shankar Lal Dayama, as an accused in the case field under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006.
“A fact-finding team including women and child development department officials were sent to Soniyana village and it was found that the child marriage was solemnised five days ago,” Khamesara added.
The SDM Gyan Mal Khateek and child development project officer Ajita Sharma later submitted a report to the collector for necessary action, he added.
District Collector Ved Prakash said a case would also be filed in a local court on Monday to declare the marriage null and void.
Villagers were tight-lipped about the incident, the collector said, quoting the report.
Child marriage is rampant in the highly patriarchal state and data from the 2011 census showed that 1.6 million children were married off in the state between 2000 and 2010.
An earlier survey by United Nations had said that Rajasthan accounts for the second highest number of child marriages in the world.