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Fifteen-year-old Sangita Bauri never feared her parents and society when she opposed her forcible marriage in a remote village in West Bengal but she trembled when she was honoured in New Delhi by President Pratibha Patil for her feat.
Bauri along with two other young girls -- Bina Kalindi and Mukti Majhi -- met Patil on Wednesday after they were called by the President hearing the tale of their daunting courage and refusing child marriage in their village in West Bengal's Purulia.
"I never feared when I said no to my marriage sometime back. I went against everyone...my parents, elders and others in my village...they had to relent. But when I was told I would be meeting the President and she will honour me, I went cold," Bauri told PTI in New Delhi after she was felicitated by Patil with a cash reward of Rs 10,000.
Bauri, who was accompanied by her father Bibuthi for the meet, was visibly happy but tensed when she received the cash packet from Patil.
"I am very happy to see what these three girls have done to oppose a social evil like child marriage. These young school-going girls will be a source of inspiration for many others like them in an around their village," Patil said as she met the three girls and their parents at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"These girls have become celebrities. They are being revered in and around their village for asserting themselves against oppression. They are now being invited in big functions in cities like Kolkata to inaugurate cultural festivals and 'Durga pooja' celebrations," Purulia Collector Avanindra Singh said.
The three girls were accompanied by two others in the same league-- Afsana Khatun and Sunita Mahato. Both Khatun and Mahato had met Patil in 2009 for taking a similar stand against child marriage and are now studying at a special vocational centre run by the state government.
While Mukti Majhi is a tribal who lost her mother at a young age, Bauri works as a domestic help.
"Her father is illiterate and is a daily wage earner. When Mukti was 13-years old, she was taken away by a boy against her will after a community dance ceremony but she resisted this age-old custom and forced community leaders to accept her will. She is now studying in class seven," an official accompanying the girls said.
Bina Kalindi's father is a daily wage earner and an alcoholic. After persuasion by Bina he has given up this habit and she is now studying after she refused to get married at an young age rejecting her community's tradition, the official said.
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