Shamima Sultana, a class 10 student of West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, is an ordinary girl with a penchant for study.
But when her parents arranged her marriage going against her wishes, this 17-year-old ordinary girl from the district’s Malopara village showed an extraordinary resolve to thwart their plan.
Refusing to tie the nuptial knot, she went on a hunger strike, prompting her school teachers and local administration to take notice and swing into action to prevent the marriage on Thursday, the third day of her protest.
Teachers and officials of the district administration later admitted her to Hariharpara block primary health centre as her frail frame could no longer bear the pangs of hunger and she fell terribly ill.
It was, however, not easy to dissuade the parents to put off the marriage. They budged only when police threatened to arrest them if they went ahead with their plan.
“She told me that she doesn’t want to get married now. But her parents were not agreeing to her decision. So we had to take the help of police and local administration,” said Prabhas Chandra Biswas, the headmaster of the Malopara High School.
Every year, thousands of underage girls from the state’s backward districts of Murshidabad, Malda, Nadia are married off, some to even far away villages in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states of the country.
“We came across many instances of poor parents marrying off their minor daughters. After marriage they lost track of their daughters. We think a good number of these girls are trafficked to red light areas,” said Jayanta Chowdhury, the Murshidabad district coordinator of the Child in Need Institute (CINI).
Locals told HT that a few months ago Sultana’s parents fixed her marriage with Nashim Sheikh, a mason from the district’s Shibnagar village.
Sultana, who has been preparing for her board exams on February 22, was completely against the marriage. But her father Abeshuddin Sheikh, a daily labourer, was not willing to pay heed to her opposition. Even her teachers failed to change his mind, until police intervened.
Hariharpara joint block development officer M N Saha assured all possible help from the administration to enable the girl to pursue her study.
“I am very happy. I can’t express my joy,” Sultana said on the way to the health centre. She was barely able to stand, but wore a faint smile of victory on her lips.
“She is extremely weak. But her condition is not grave,” said Azizul Lashkar, block medical officer.