Her mother tried to get her married to guardian

A pamphlet she picked up off the road made all the difference to this 16-year-old. She did not want to marry her guardian who had raised her. So, she gathered courage and called up the number mentioned in the pamphlet and won her path to freedom.

On Wednesday, an anxious-looking Sandhya (name changed) came out of the examination hall at a school in Choolaimedu after taking her final class XII paper. She had earlier called the Centre For Women's Development. Having explained her situation, Sandhya later gave a written complaint to the NGO, requesting that she be rescued only after her final examination. “I wanted to write the examination well,” she said.

While her classmates were coming out of the class with smiles, she was silently praying, as her last paper not only meant the completion of schooling, but also the day when she was to be, hopefully, rescued. “This morning, I packed a few clothes before leaving home. My mother found out and said I should not go for the examination. I swore on my father's picture that I would return, and convinced them to let me come,” she said. “They said they would wait for me outside the school.”

After Sandhya's father passed away, the family became dependent on his friend Siva Swamy (36). Shockingly, her mother, who had been living with the man, had agreed for his marriage with her daughter. Last June, the family held a quick wedding ceremony but had decided to arrange for a formal ceremony during her vacation. “My brother initially opposed the idea. But once he was offered a bike, he tried convincing me that I will be happy in the marriage,” said Sandhya.

Representatives from the NGO and police personnel were waiting to rescue the girl after her examination. When Siva Swamy entered the school campus on a bike, Sandhya concealed herself behind a few people there. Mahalakshmi, a police woman, stopped the bike and brought him in. “I am her uncle,” he claimed first, although he later admitted that he planned to marry her. “For the past three years, I have been with this family,” said the wholesale dealer at Koyambedu. He said he had sought divorce from his first wife. He has a son in Class IX from his first marriage. Siva Swamy, Sandhya's mother Nagalakshmi and brother Rajkumar were arrested by the police.

Despite the harassment the girl was nice to him on Wednesday. “Please do not arrest him. He is a heart patient and has supported our family throughout. I am also worried about my mother,” she told the police.

Sandhya had been offered a job in a company after a placement test at the school. “Since I do not have the finances to support my education, I would like to work,” she said, while expressing interest in pursuing higher studies at a later point. Sandhya is now at a home run by Childline. She will be produced before the child welfare committee later this week. “I don't want to return home now, since my mother will put pressure on me.”

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