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Child marriages thrive in Gurgaon
Gurgaon, Apr 11 (IANS):
Published on 11 Apr. 2010 11:52 PM IST
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This is the National Capital Region’s hi-tech showpiece, full of gleaming towers of glass and steel, world class condominiums and a centre for multinational and expat workers. But go a few kilometres off the glittering malls, fancy restaurants and the expressway, you will find little girls in traditional Rajasthani dresses and bangles all the way up their arms wave at you -- before you suddenly discover the kids are married.
There are around 400 dwellings in a cluster at Pataudi Road, made up of families that settled here around 20 years ago. Around 100 of these families are from Rajasthan and most of their members -- whether four years or 70-years-old, boy or girl, man or woman -- are married.
Ask them about it and they dismiss it as no big deal even though child marriage is a crime in India.
“These are old rituals and we follow it,” says Devilal, 36, who became a father at the age of 13. “But we send the bride to her in-laws’ house only after she crosses the age of 14.”
Most of them marry off their children at the age of three. You tell them that child marriage is illegal and not “right” and they get defensive.
“No one is educated here, so they don’t know what is right and what is wrong. We just follow the tradition,” said Nanda Lal, another slumdweller.
Lal says there are more important things to address, like “absence of power and water supply and a poor sewage system in the colony”.
If you still persist and ask them why they do not put their children in school, they tell you that those who tried were asked for their identity cards which they don’t have.
The children don’t know what marriage is but the majority are married.
Most of the families are from Bhilwada village of Ajmer and belong to the Badh Gujjar Jangalia tribe. They often go to their hometown for the marriages.
“Because of the fear of police, we don’t get our children married in Gurgaon. But we do follow the rituals and get them married in our village,” said Jogendra, another resident.
A district administration official who did not wish to be named said: “We are aware of it and are in touch with NGOs to educate the community. So far, no tough action has been taken against them but they have been warned several times. It is better to educate them rather than take action.”
A few families of the same tribe also live at Railway Road.
The families say that in Rajasthan, mass weddings take place on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritya. A majority of these are child marriages, a practice common in villages like Devali, Toda and Malpur.
Child marriages are also common among lower caste agricultural labourers in the rural areas of Jaipur, Alwar, Tonk, Sawaimadhopur, Bundi, Kota, Ajmer and the tribal belt of Udaipur division during ‘aakha teej’.
Another auspicious occasion for solemnising such marriages is Dev Uthni that falls 10 days after Diwali.

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