I was married off at quiet a young age. And so were my sisters. It was nothing uncommon in our village. The reason for early marriage was not to get rid of us. It was to save us.I hail from a village near Ranchi, Jharkhand. My father was the village Mukhiya. So, out of fear we were spared from the brutality of getting raped. Yes, rape. Rape was nothing uncommon in our village back then. Once a girl reached adolescence, it was customary for them to be raped. We did have police, who were aware of the ongoing crime but they chose to remain silent spectators. But,no one came to rescue the poor girls from the clutches of those monsters. If anyone raised their voice against these monsters, their whole family had to pay the price, so it became a hush-hush affair.
Most girls from our village went to school. Yes, it was far away, but still we managed. I, myself studied till class eight, Hindi medium though. My father, had a modern outlook as compared to the rest of the villagers. He wanted us to study, but, the then, prevailing condition in our village, forced him to marry us off at an early age. Especially after my little sister was abducted from a local shop, to be preyed upon.
It gives me Goosebumps, as I narrate this story. My father loved his evening tea. Since, there was no tea leaf at home, so he had sent Chutki, to get some from a nearby shop. It was around 4:30 in the evening. Broad daylight, as I can recall. The water was boiling, as we waited for her to return. She didn’t show up even after 45mins, when the entire errand would have roughly taken 10 minutes for its completion. My restless father left in search of Chutki. She was no where to be found. Finally, word of mouth, revealed the entire episode.
She was lifted from the shop by four drunk men. We all knew who they were. Nobody dared to speak a word against them, cause of the reputation they held.Ironically nobody even tried to rescue Chutki from their evil clutches. Sadly, this was not a one time incident. These were very common in our village. But, by god’s grace Chutki was rescued. Thanks to Sarla masi. She was taken to a school. It was the same school where we used to study. The four known delinquents, were waiting for their fifth partner to join them in their crime. Chutki cried for help. Sarla masi recognised her voice. Her house was located adjacent to the school. She came down with a big laathi(stick) , and rescued our little Chutki. Had it not been for her, we would have found a blood stained Chutki trying to overcome the mentaland physical trauma. But, the brave Sarla masi, our Rani Laxmibai, became our savior.
So, after that incident, my father started marrying us off, one by one. Only our youngest sister was spared, since she was too young to be married. It’s been many years, since that incidence, but still makes us shiver. Chutki is happily married, with two sons. My father, is no more. My sister and mother lives in the village. The village is still not safe for girls to roam around freely or go to school,as the travel distance is beyond imagination.
I have the right to live my dreams, I have the right to education. I wanted to learn more. But circumstances forced me to choose something different. Something that I was not ready for. Now,I’m struggling to make my younger sister follow her dreams. She will be giving her 12th boards next year. She is home schooling, as the high school is far away from our village. Plus, the safety issues also pose a restriction. Not only on us, but for each and every girl of our village.
We want the girls to be educated, but before we think about educating them, we should think about making the roads leading to schools safer. Allowing them to roam around without any fear. Making schools accessible to each and every one of them. Every village should have their own schools. It’s tough for girls to travel so much everyday to study. Many drop out of the schools for this reason. There’s no one to accompany the girls everyday or guarantee their safety, on their way to school. So, parents are forced to marry off their daughters instead of encouraging them to study.
If we want an educated India, we would have to make India, a lot safer. We have to invest in building schools within the reach of these girls.Schools were meant to help us learn new things, to educate us, not to be used as a place to molest girls. Police are meant for our protection, not to be silent spectators. There are large number of plans made by our honorable government, to help the female gender, but their applicability is still questionable. There are schools, but they lack the basic infrastructure and at times, even teachers.
As far as our village was concerned, there was a school, parents encouraged the girls to go to school, but the girls were not safe. The safety of the girls were always at stake. 15 years later, now, our village is better,but still unsafe for the girls.Providing a safe environment to the girls can help boost up the education process. And for this we need strict laws and their proper implementation. We focus on educating the female child,empowering them, but we fail at providing them a safe environment.
P.S. The story is written as narrated and is based on true incidents. The identities of the characters have been changed to maintain anonymity.