Refused to marry off minor girl, family made to prostrate before villagers, outcast near Chennai

While the incident happened in April this year, it came to light after the family approached Revenue Divisional Office in Ponneri a few days ago.
Representative Image
Representative Image

Chennai

A family of five including a 60-year-old woman were made to prostrate before each member of an entire village as they refused to marry off their minor daughter, a Class 11 student, to a man and were outcast as they approached police for help, breaching the rules of the village, which is just about 70 kilometers away from Chennai It is a fishing hamlet (name withheld to protect the identity of the girl) near Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border at Minjur block in Tiruvallur district.
While the incident happened in April this year, it came to light after the family approached Revenue Divisional Office in Ponneri a few days ago.
When the minor girl was out of town to attend a wedding, the villagers spread the rumour that she eloped with another man from the same village. When the girl returned and refuted that she was not relationship with the man she was rumoured to be, the so-called heads of the village insisted that the girl still marries the man since the word has spread in the neighbourhood.
The girl's mother approached Arambakkam police in the last week of April, but the police booked six men under bailable sections and let them off.
The real struggle started for the family only after that since the village heads decided to outcast them since they approached thr police against the rules they have formed. It is said that the village would select a head among themselves and the rest should by his directions even if it is to approach police or government officials to air their grievances. "The fishermen cannot buy diesel for their boats on their own and the village head and his subordinates would buy diesel in bulk and distribute to all the fishermen. Also, the expenditure of travel and lodging of the village heads  should be borne by the village itself," said an officer who visited the village for an inquiry.
Since the family had lodged a complaint against the village heads themselves, the rest of the village sidelined with the heads and the family was outcast and fined Rs 75,000. Since outcast would mean not being able to get fuel for the boat and travelling out of the village even to buy essentials, the family decided to apologise for their 'mistake'.
The punishment was to prostrate before each villager and the girl's parents, her 60-year-old grandmother and two brothers were made to apologise to the entire village.
However, since the harassment continued, the family moved to Tada from where they approached the Ponneri RDO.
On Tuesday, officials from the social welfare department and revenue department accompanied by police personnel visited the village and held talks with the villagers. Since the some of the village heads were out of town, the officials could not arrive at a solution.
Gnana Selvi, in-charge of the One Stop Centre of Ministry of Women and Child Development, who was also part of the team that visited village told DTNext that the villagers refused to accept the officials' argument that the minor marriages and outcasting a family from the neighbourhood is offences punishable under the legal system. "Our intention was to create awareness against child marriages since we came to know that it was a custom in the village to marry girls even before they turn 18 and relocate the family in the village again. Based on the outcome our meeting with the villagers, police would be informed if actions had to be initiated against against the six men the family had lodged a complaint against.

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