On Saturday night, a teenager who has been shown to be 20 on paper staggered her way to a police chowky in Nallasopara all by herself, shaken that she had to report the man who had been sexually and physically attacking her ever since their September “marriage”, a bond forged after she was sold to him for Rs 6.3 lakh.
The transaction took place about 10 months ago, when the child, originally from Rangam village in Rajasthan’s Pali district, was 13. This was the third time she was being bought by a man for a few lakhs or thousands; on this occasion, it was so she could be his wife. Moving swiftly on her complaint, the police arrested the man accused of buying, marrying and brutalising the minor the very same day, suspecting that he could be part of a bigger racket of human traders. His name is Lachharam Kriparam Chaudhary, and he is 35 years old. He will be produced in court today.
It was after months of silently bearing Chaudhary’s torture that the girl on Saturday gathered the nerve to steal out of her conjugal home in Nalla sopara East -where he would keep her captive to endure his abuse -and run to the nearby Santosh Bhavan beat chowky, under the purview of Tulinj police station.
The police officials were taken aback when the survivor narrated the horrors inflicted on her before she could fully comprehend them. Her mother had passed away years ago and her father died a few years after remarrying, leaving her no choice but to stay with her stepmother and two stepbrothers.
In her statement to the police, she said that back home in Rangam last September, Shanti, the stepmother, fobbed her off on Chaudhary so he could marry her. To avert legal trouble because of the girl’s age, Shanti made up an affidavit declaring her as a 20-year-old adult, and got it notarised, following which Chaudhary wedded her.
Police sources said Shanti had traded her stepchild within Rajasthan twice earlier, for Rs 50,000 the first time and then for Rs 5.80 lakh. So when Chaudhary offered Rs 6.3 lakh for her, she had little cause to hesitate.
After this “marriage”, the couple moved to Santosh Bhavan in Nallasopara to find work, and here Chaudhary started a grocery shop. The mi nor alleged that apart from sexually abusing her on a regular basis, Chaudhary held her captive inside a small room, refusing to let her out.
On the evening of Saturday, she overheard him having a conversation about selling someone for Rs 15 lakh. Terrified that she would be commoditised again, she resolved to free herself from his clutches.
After noting down the girl’s statement and interrogating the accused, police officers suspect that if probed further, the case could unravel human trafficking practices entrenched in patriarchal Rajasthan.
For Chaudhary, when quizzed, told cops that minors in his state are routinely sold as spouses, abused sexually and then resold in other states, including this one, where the cycle may continue.
“Some stay married, while many resell their child-wives for a good sum. I had also purchased her for Rs 6.3 lakh and then married her,” Chaudhary said, adding that affidavits are made up to keep up the appearance of legitimacy. The police said they will investigate his claims and see how far and deep the trail spreads out.
The girl, meanwhile, was sent for medical examination, which has established that she is 14. “Reports from JJ Hospital have confirmed that the minor’s age is 14 years. We have arrested her husband and booked him for rape under various provisions of the law,” said inspector Kailash Barve of Tulinj police station.
Cops will now set about apprehending the other culprits in the case. “We’ll be sending a team to nab the minor’s stepmother and parents of the accused,” inspector Barve said.
Chaudhary has been booked under sections 376 (rape), 366A (procuring a minor girl), 342 (wrongful confinement), 372 (selling a minor for prostitution), 373 (buying a minor for prostitution), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 34 (common intent) and under sections 4, 8, and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).