Lucknow: Ram Kishun, the Samajwadi Party MP for Chandauli in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Kishun has been organising mass marriages in his constituency for more than a decade now. This has made him popular among the people. But this year's ceremony could land him in trouble with allegations of child marriage doing the rounds.
According to sources, some couples who were married off in Monday's mass marriage ceremony were children between 10 and 16 years of age. The event was held in Dihwan village under Niyamatabad block of Chandauli district.
Niyamatabad is the MP's native place. The district administration is collecting details about the alleged child marriage before ordering an inquiry, reports Mail Today.
A. L. Prajapati, the additional district magistrate, said: “ Child marriage is a crime under the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929. Action will be initiated against anyone found violating it.”
A two- time MLA and now an MP, Kishun's success in electoral politics depends on these mass marriages.
He also gives the couples beds, wardrobes and utensils as wedding gifts. While 51 couples had tied the nuptial knot last year, this year, he had selected 101 couples for the ceremony. But a few of the brides and grooms were allegedly below the legal wedding age. Ram Bali, a student of Class IV in a local government school, was reportedly married off to a Class III student.
Bali is just 12. Fourteen year- old Govinda Kumar, a Class V student, refused to comment on his marriage. The shy youngster said: “ I don't know. Ask my father.” His father Kanhayia Lal said most of the couples were from Niyamatabad area.
“ We are poor people for whom a marriage ceremony is a luxury. We barely have enough money for one square meal a day. The MP is doing great work. He has been organising such mass marriages for the last 10 years and we have reciprocated by voting for him,” he said.
“ He is an economist of votes and these child marriages are an investment for him. He believes the couples will vote for him when they turn 18,” said Kailash Nath Singh Yadav of the Bahujan Samaj Party ( BSP).
However, the MP denied the charges. “ Most of the brides and grooms live in abject poverty. So they suffer from malnutrition. That is why they look like minors. All of them are above 18. Even I am against child marriage,” Kishun said.