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Trafficked Odisha girl found in Palwal was married to ‘mentally challenged’ man: Police

PUBLISHED IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Investigations into the case of a 12-year-old girl from Odisha who was allegedly trafficked and sold by her ‘uncle’, and raped many times threw up a gut-wrenching twist Thursday as it emerged she was married off to a “mentally challenged” man, said police sources. “She was sold by her ‘uncle’ first for Rs 50,000 and then the buyer sold her to three persons including the groom’s father for Rs 80,000. She was in the forced marriage for nearly 12 days,” said a police officer.

Police Thursday arrested three more men in the case, taking the number of accused held to seven, said Sushila Devi, in-charge of Palwal women’s police station. The girl’s ‘uncle’, Suresh, who first sold her to accused Beeri Singh and his wife, is among those nabbed, said the police. The case spanning Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana was registered at the women’s police station on the girl’s complaint after she was rescued in Palwal on November 30.

“The minor was forcibly married to Roop Chand, 35, who appears to be mentally challenged, of Saroli village. Beeri Singh had sold her to accused Roop Chand, his father, Hari Singh, and Govind Singh,” said a police officer. An accused identified as Omi Prajapati from Faridabad acted as a link between Beeri Singh, Hari Singh and Govind Singh for the sale, added the officer.

According to the officer, the girl managed to leave Roop Chand’s house one day when he was sleeping and reached the main road, about 4 km away. “While she was walking on the main road, two autorickshaw drivers, Goverdhan and Jitender, spotted her. Both the drivers worked in Gurgaon and were travelling to Palwal via Dhatir Road. They took the girl to a jungle-like place off Dhatir Road and raped her,” added the officer.

“The accused drivers, who have been arrested, planned to drop her at the railway station, but Goverdhan dropped Jitender and kept the girl. The girl escaped when he dozed off,” said the officer. The girl’s uncle had first brought her from her Odisha village to a village in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, said the police. “More accused are likely to be arrested,” said Devi.

Kamal Saksena, home secretary, UP, said, “UP government has been sensitised about the case by Shakti Vahini- Child Helpline NGO.” He said UP police would go to Palwal. Sources in Odisha Bhawan, Delhi, said a probe was on and the girl’s address was being verified. A medical report has corroborated the girl was sexually abused.

Girl not produced before child panel, sent to Nari Niketan Haryana State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (HSCPCR) has taken note of procedural lapses in the case of the rescued girl, who was sent to an adult protection home instead of one for children. What’s more, Palwal police did not produce the girl in the court of the Child Welfare Committee.

Paramjeet Singh, chairperson, HSCPCR, said, “The police should have taken the girl to the CWC and procedures of taking the statement should have been followed there with proper counselling. This is a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2006.” Singh added it was wrong to send the girl to a Nari Niketan. A police officer said, “The girl recorded her statement in civil court and was sent to Nari Niketan on the orders of the duty magistrate.” Ashok Kumar Meena, Deputy Commissioner, Palwal said, “The main issue is the counselling of the girl, which is why she was sent to the Nari Niketan. Facilities at the child protection home are not upgraded. We assure all possible help is given.”

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