She had been studying hard for her Class 10 Social Studies paper. But all her hard work and the time she put into preparing for the important examination that can make or break her future academic and career prospects were wasted - her parents stopped her from appearing for the exam today because they wanted to marry her off.
The 15-year-old girl from Nacharam in Hyderabad first tried to run away from home. She was stopped. Then somehow she managed to contact child rights activist Achyutha Rao and informed him of the situation she was in. Soon, the police along Mr Rao reached the girl's home and rescued her.
In a photo taken by the rescuers, the girl is seen in a light blue bridal saree, her hair draped in colourful flowers and surrounded by relatives inside a room adorned with decorative items as if in preparation for a ceremony.
The family claimed the girl's father was unwell and so she was being married off. "The school records are not okay. See the Aadhaar card. Isn't it issued by government?" one of her relatives argued with the rescue team.
The school's records show the girl's age as 15, though the date of birth in her Aadhaar card says she is over 18 years old.
The child rights activists who accompanied the police said it is very likely that the girl's parents gave wrong date of birth information to the Aadhaar authority so that she can be married off. The activists said such cases are common to game the system and keep the racket of child marriage well-oiled and running.
The Class 10 girl can also be sent to a shelter home if she felt threatened, activists said.
The UNICEF says marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. Child marriage often compromises a girl's development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.
A UNICEF report that looked at child marriage between 2010 and 2017, which was released in March last year, said 7 per cent of girls were married off before the age of 15 in India.
The Rachakonda police that has rescued a number of prospective child brides from marriage points out that many of these are school-going children who are coming out in the open and complaining, as the police and the rescue machinery are reaching out to them through systems set up by the Telangana government.