A Lambani girl's tale of woes

A Lambani girl's tale of woes

The girl of 18 was forcibly wed to a 60-year-old man from Chennai

A Lambani girl's tale of woes

The girl from Seegigatti tanda was married off to a 60-year old, affluent Marwadi in Chennai. She ran away from her marital home, to return to the tanda.

Incensed at the defiance of the girl, the elders at the tanda refused to accept her and, to add insult to injury, excommunicated her and even imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on her hapless, poor as a church mouse mother, Janakavva.

Apparently, Akkavva is not the only such victim in the tanda. Many girls have been trafficked under the guise of marriage to homes of aged Marwadi suitors in Chennai who cannot find young brides within their community.

Organised gangs

Akkavva appears to have been targeted by one of the organised gangs in many tandas in Kalghatagi taluk that have been selling off girls under the guise of marriage. Given the strict code of silence and clannish rigidity in the tandas, such incidents are hushed up, particularly since such marriages of convenience have been money-spinners for the traffickers, akin to the gangs in Jharkhand and Orissa. More so, since poverty drives many parents to sell of their daughters in such fashion. Janakavva, whose husband Bhojappa Lamani is incapacitated due to a stroke, works in fields to feed the family.

On February 4, when she was away working, Lakshmi Chavan of Majapura Tanda landed up at her home and took away Akkavva on some pretext. Janakavva returned home to find Akkavva missing. Inquiries revealed that her daughter had been taken away to Chennai by Lakshmi Chavan and her mother Somalavva Lamani, a former president of Tambur Grama Panchayat, and had been forcibly married off to a Marwadi in Chennai.

Racked with worry, Janakavva rushed to Chennai where she discovered that her daughter had been, against her will married off to 60-year old Jinesh by two Chennai women, Lakshmi and and her associate, Latha.

Janakavva claims that she was not aware about her daughter’s marriage. But her claims appear to be dubious. It is said that Janakavva agreed to the marriage and had received Rs 40,000 for her consent. There are pictures of the marriage in which Janakavva is seen.

Akkavva says that after her marriage, she was forcibly confined to Jinesh’s house for eight days. According to her, Lakshmi Chavan and her mother Somalavva stayed in Jinesh’ house to guard against her escape.

Put on a train

However, she got an opportunity to escape when she received news that her ailing father was seriously ill. When Akkavva insisted on returning to her parental home to see her father, she was put on a train.

“I did not go back after that,” says Akkavva. The incident would not have come to light given the omerta that rules the Lamani society. Janakavva’s refusal to pay the fine imposed on her by the tanda elders led to some in the tanda throwing stones at her house and excommunicating the family.

Janakavva, accompanied by Akkavva then sought shelter in her elder daughter’s house at Kalaghatagi. Police arrested Lakshmi Chavan, Somalavva Lamani, Seegigatti tanda elders Denappa Lamani, Parashurama Lamani and Ramu Lamani on March 14. They also made Lakshmi Chavan to telephonically summon the two Chennai women, Lakshmi and Latha under some pretext and arrested them when the two arrived in Hubli by train from Chennai.

But the arrest of her tormentors does not seem to have brought any joy to Akkavva, locked in a marriage she did not want. Slumped in her mother’s lap, she stares dully into nothingness, unsure of what life holds for her.

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