I am not Malala: I want to study, please do what's right

I am not Malala: I want to study, please do what's right

By: || Updated: 11 Dec 2014 03:20 AM
New Delhi: Malala Yousafzai today took the podium to say: "I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not.... It is the story of many girls."



Nearly 7,000km away, a girl had stood up a few hours earlier to tell her story: "I want to study and stand on my own feet, but my parents are forcing me to get married. They are telling me to marry a youth who lives nearby and constantly harasses me. He had abducted me in 2013 and I was rescued by police."



Malala is 17, the youngest Nobel laureate ever after receiving the peace prize along with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. She was in Oslo, the capital of Norway.



The other teenager is 15, and stunned the audience at a meeting on girls' rights. She was in Malda, the north Bengal town.



In the Malda auditorium were 157 schoolgirls as well as several social workers attending an awareness campaign on child marriage. The seminar was organised by Child In Need Institute (Cini), a Calcutta-based NGO that works for needy women and children.



Breaking down several times, the teenager in Malda said that the neighbourhood youth, who is in his twenties, had kidnapped her on July 21, 2013, when she was returning home from tuition classes. Four days later, the police rescued her from Habra, North-24 Parganas. The youth was not arrested though her parents had filed a police complaint, she said.



Attempts to verify the account with the police were not successful. A police officer said since the narrated incident was more than a year old, he could not readily recall the details and his colleagues needed time to go through the files.



Since the girl's home is around 40km from Malda town and in the absence of phone numbers, neither her parents nor other relatives could be contacted.



The girl, whose father is a farm labourer, studies in Class X in a religious institution.



The teenager was brought to the seminar by Anupama Sarkar, a block-level motivator for Sabala, a government project to make women self-reliant.



Sarkar said she was aware that the girl was under pressure from her family to get married but was not aware of the alleged harassment by the youth whom the teenager named several times in her account today.



Standing amid the audience, the girl said she came to know from "Anupamadidi in her area" about this meeting. "So I came here with her today to tell you about my plight. Please do what you think is fit," she requested officials seated on the dais.


"The police have done nothing. Akhon bhoy graam chhara hotey hobey ba okey biye korte hobey (I will now either have to leave my village out of fear or agree to marry him)," she said. "The youth is pressurising me to marry him. He is threatening my parents, so they are also telling me to marry him. But I want to study."



The officials included Malda's additional district magistrate, subdivisional officer, chairperson of the district child welfare committee and the district child welfare officer.



They called the girl to the stage, spoke to her and took notes.



"The district administration is with her and will ensure that the girl can continue her studies. We have given instructions to the officials of her block to speak to her parents and see to it that she is not pressurised to marry anyone," additional district magistrate Debotosh Mondal said after the seminar. "We will also speak to police officers and ask them to take steps against the youth whom the girl has named."



Malda police chief Prasun Banerjee said he had ordered an investigation.


-The Telegraph, Calcutta

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