Forest misadventure cuts short child marriage

Minor couple planned month-long honeymoon, but tuskers and water scarcity forced them out

May 31, 2017 11:02 pm | Updated 11:02 pm IST - CHITTOOR

A rescue party interacting with villagers at Eguva Bandapalle hamlet of Bangarupalem mandal in Chittoor district on Wednesday, over missing of minor girls.

A rescue party interacting with villagers at Eguva Bandapalle hamlet of Bangarupalem mandal in Chittoor district on Wednesday, over missing of minor girls.

The villagers of Eguva Bandarlapalle and KG Satram villages of Bangarupalem mandal heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday, spotting the newly married minor couple emerging safe from the elephant-infested Tekumanda forest of the Koundinya wildlife sanctuary after they went missing five days ago.

The 12-year-old girl of Eguva Bandarlapalle hamlet and the 16-year-old boy of KG Satram were in love with each other since a couple of years.

The girl’s parents proposed her marriage with a distant relative, forcing the lovers to elope and get married in an adventurous way.

Five days ago, they entered the forest with garlands, turmeric thread and paraphernalia required for the marriage. The boy tied the nuptial knot at a Hanuman temple inside the jungle. As the duo did not return home, worried family members made a frantic search in neighborhoods. On Wednesday morning, based on the version of some shepherds, the villagers were about to launch a scouring of the jungle when the minor couple were sighted exiting safely.

The SHE team (women and juvenile wing) of Palamaner police division, officials of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and volunteers of the Rural Organization for Poverty Eradication Services (ROPES) and Child Line 1098 rushed to Eguva Bandarlapalle hamlet and took possession of the girl. The couple informed the officials that they remained inside the forest for five nights amid tense moments due to tuskers’ movement. The boy’s friends supplied them cooked food, though the group also resorted to cooking in some slots, with the help of utensils and firewood. Water scarcity and fear of wild animals forced them to come out of the jungle, though they had actually intended a month-long honeymoon.

Summoning parents of both sides, the rescue party took an undertaking from them that the girl would stay with the parents till she attained the age of 18. The toe-rings and nuptial knot on the girl were removed.

The girl, a fifth class dropout, would be sent back to school. The officials noticed that the girl’s parents were given to drinks and their elder daughter went missing during a family trip to Salem in Tamil Nadu eight years ago. The boy, whose parents are also daily wagers, works at a roadside dhaba near Bangarupalem on the Bengaluru NH.

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