Bina Kalindi, 12, wants to meet President Pratibha Patil. She also wants to go to school and become a teacher, an ambition that drives her father Parikshit Kalindi into fits on anger that often end in her being beaten up.
Pariskshit, a daily labourer who also weaves baskets for a living, would rather his daughter got married and raised a family like her elder sister Saraswati Kalindi, 14, did two years ago.
Grooms have come to their mud house five times seeking Bina’s hand, but each time the gutsy girl said no, threatening to run away if forced into a marriage.
What has inspired Bina to study was Rekha Kalindi, another 12-year-old scheduled tribe girl from a neighbouring village, who along with two others got the President’s Bravery Award this year for saying no to marriage. Rekha Kalindi’s story was first reported in HT in January 2009.
Now every little tribal girl in Purulia wants to study and meet Patil.
Inspired by Kalindi’s story, 35 girls have refused to get married at the age of 12 and 13 over the past year, which is the custom among the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) in this district. SCs and STs constitute 36 per cent of Purulia’s 2.5 million population.
These 35 girls, said the district labour commissioner who tracks child marriage, is the tip of the iceberg of social change. “Many parents now don’t want to get their little daughters married but urge them to make something of their lives,” said Prosenjit Kundu, assistant labour commissioner, Purulia, who runs special school for children who have missed schooling under West Bengal government’s National Child Labour Project (NCLP).
“I fought to go to school and my father agreed after I promised him that I will continue to cook and clean the house,” said Bina, who is now in Class III at the NCLP school.
Bina and her friends, along with their teachers, have stopped other child marriages. Most girls want to become teachers, who are their heroes for having changed their lives. “It will be wonderful to have more teachers in the district...” said Kundu.