Police in Hyderabad on Friday arrested two men who helped perform the marriage of a 16-year-old girl with a 77-year-old Omani national.
A police officer said the girl’s father may also be taken into custody for submitting a false affidavit showing her age as 21.
“The qazi who performed the marriage is also under surveillance,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police V. Satyanarayana. The qazi could not be formally arrested as he is recuperating following a bypass surgery.
According to the police, the Omani national, identified only as Ahmed, is 77 years old. The girl’s mother, in her complaint, had showed his age as 65.
The marriage was performed in May at a guest house in Jalpally where the Omani national was staying. He returned home after the marriage and sent visa for the girl, who later joined him in Muscat.
The girl, however, informed her parents over phone that her husband was mentally and physically torturing her. Her mother Sayeeda lodged a complaint with Falaknuma police station that her husband, his sister and brother-in-law “sold” the girl to the Omani man for Rs 5 lakh.
The police registered a case of cheating and criminal intimidation against the Omani, the girl’s father, his sister, her husband, the qazi and others.
The police officer said they were making all efforts to bring the girl back to Hyderabad.
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had on Thursday described the incident as “deeply disturbing”. She urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to intervene.
The officer said the marriage was performed at the instance of one Ghousia Begum, who lives in Muscat. She and her husband along with their contacts here allegedly lured the girl’s parents with the promise that their daughter would lead a lavish life.
He said in most such cases, poor and illiterate families in the old city married off their young daughters to aged ‘sheikhs’.
However, in majority of the nine cases dealt by police the aged ‘shiekhs’ were from poor families. “In two cases the sheikhs were beggars and had also forced their wives to beg,” he said.
He said the police were keeping a close watch on 60 brokers who were identified during the investigation of these cases in recent years. However, brokers based in Mumbai and even abroad were carrying on their activities by duping poor and illiterate families.