Bengal poster girl against child marriage ‘ties knot’ at 16

FP

As a 12-year-old, Rekha Kalindi, from Bararola village of Purulia, hit the headlines in 2007 when she defied her parents and refused to get married. She was felicitated by then president Pratibha Patil and then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. She even became the poster girl for UNICEF's campaign against child marriage.

Last week, Rekha, now 17, was in the news again following reports of her marriage to Manindra Kalindi, 27. While Rekha denied the reports, her relatives, school teachers and villagers said the couple had got married in a local temple in January 2011 and lived together in Manindra's house in Bakat village, about 20 kilometres from Bararoli.

Admitting this, Manindra's mother, Suchandra, said: "They lived in our house as husband and wife. They are in love with each other, what's wrong with that?''

But Rekha, who shifted to her sister's house in Shyampur village, about 25 kilometres from Bararola, last week, denied reports of her marriage, claiming that she would marry Manindra after her Class X board exam. "I love him, but I want to study and appear for my Class X board exam,'' she said.

She has completed her Class VIII from Vivekananda Madhyamik Shiksha Kendra in Bakat. Since the school only offers studies till Class VIII, Rekha has to look for another school now.

"I have seen her with her husband many times, they used to live together in Bakat village. She may have got married because of sheer poverty and parental pressure. But since she became famous for her fight against child marriage, she does not want to disclose this," said Pratiram Mahato, headmaster of Vivekananda Madhyamik Shiksha Kendra.

According to sources in the district administration, this is Manindra's third marriage. His financial condition is reported to be worse than Rekha's, who receives an annual stipend from the Centre for resisting child marriage.

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