Hunters

By: Tamanna Basu

In the final year of college most of us plan to pursue postgraduate studies or start searching for that dream job. We can dream to earn and create a career. It’s that basic a right that Shanti wished to exercise.

Midway through her final year as a B.Sc student at Magadh University, Patna, Bihar, Shanti was terribly pressurised by her family to get married immediately. She was just twenty years old. Marriage for a girl who is that young mostly means the end of professional dreams. She is soon with child and then spends a lifetime functioning as a mother and wife. Shanti, a smart and educated girl, could foresee the trap and wanted to evade it.

Her resistance and rebellion came at a high cost. She was scolded and brutally beaten every time she refused marriage.

Her cousin brothers beat her every time she refused to marry and broke her phone to pieces.

Her father tried to kill her by strangulation twice but she escaped. He brought a bottle of poison and told her he will first feed it to her and then kill himself with it as well.

Her mother said she should be thrown before a train and crushed to death.

Her grandfather told her she will be cut into pieces and then the pieces will be thrown away. Her uncle supported the suggestion and added that nobody would even try to stop such an act in their locality.

The groom they had chosen for her was a boy studying in class 11. Yet in school, a child and approximately four years younger to her. She was just being thrown away as trash.

She reported her troubles to three organisations and all three failed to provide her successful institutional aid, the very purpose for which they exist.

On 12th February, 2016, she managed to acquire a train ticket away from Patna. She ran from home and reached the railway station. It was none other than one of the NGOs that she had applied to for aid that discovered her, ‘caught her red-handed’. This particular NGO, the fundamental ideology of which is to fight violence, caught hold of the victim that ought to be its priority just as she was about to escape hell and sent her hurtling right back into the pit of darkness. The NGO personnel phoned her father in front of her at the station itself and asked him to come down. So close to freedom, she was recaptured by her family. She was dragged home and beaten severely.

At this point her mother told her father to cut her into pieces and throw them into the river. A neat and clean disposal. No traces. The entire family agreed.

A night’s sleep. A change of heart. Her father became loving enough to not cut his daughter into pieces. In stead, on 14th February, he got her ‘Tilak’ (engagement) done to the class 11 school boy.

On 16th February, Shanti somehow arranged a meeting with a particularly and unusually kind lady named Sunita who works at an NGO in Bihar. Shanti gave her narrative in written to Sunita along with a plea for help. After nearly two months of work and research, in the month of April Sunita was able to discover and contact Shakti Shalini in Delhi. Sunita and we jointly decided that Shanti must be made to fly by flight from Patna to Delhi so that there is no loss of time and she is not captured by her family while trying to escape as she had been once before.

We booked her a flight from Patna to Delhi for the 21st of April. Sunita brought her safely to the Patna airport and we received her in Delhi. She is currently with us. Finally, safe and sound.

Several months of horror before she found release.

She had taken all her final year college exams except one last physics practical exam. The exam was scheduled for the 26th of April. Her marriage was scheduled for the 24th of April. She escaped on the 21st of April. She escaped her marriage and also lost the degree she had worked for three years. She lost her college degree by just one practical exam.

Now she just wants to complete her education, get a job, earn, become independent. Simple enough wishes that we deny our girls. She is currently living with us at our shelter home – Pehchan. She partakes in all extra – curricular activities organised at the Home. She receives regular counseling and according to the counselor’s report, she is demonstrating a very positive attitude, is gaining confidence and adjusting well to the new environment. She has been selected by the Committee of Resource Organization for the Quest Fellowship Programme which will provide her theoretical training in community work. We, at Shakti Shalini, are providing her field training in community work. Soon she will be eligible for a job in the social sector.

Her family has never attempted to look for her. Their indifference to her is a terrible blessing.

Shanti’s is a tale of survival and one can breathe a sigh of relief at the end of it. However, we’d just like to pose a little food for thought at the end of this piece.

All Shantis don’t escape. There are very few people like Sunita sitting in different pockets of India while there are countless girls like Shanti. Every Shanti does not find a Sunita. Shanti has two younger sisters. What does the future hold for them? One shudders at that thought. Will they escape? Probably not.

Help girls. They are fighting for survival. Please leave a comment if we have been able to reach out to you through this piece. Thank you.

*All names in this article have been changed

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