State child helpline officials on a visit to a government school in a remote village in Kalaburagi district spotted a 9-year-old girl wearing a chain with beads generally worn by children who are dedicated to the Devadasi system prevalent in parts of North Karnataka.

Swinging into action, the officials rescued the girl who is now in a government-run childcare centre. The girls’ parents and a local priest were arrested in connection with the incident. The FIR also named teachers at the school where the girl was studying.

Narrating the shocking series of incidents, District Child Development Project Officer CV Raman told Mirror, “The officials spotted the girl when they visited the village. They learnt that the child had been dedicated to the deity. Devadasi system is often practised by the scheduled caste community in this region. The girls, before attaining puberty, are dedicated/married to the local deity. It is believed that the ceremony was performed about five years ago.

So why was this particular girl picked? CV Raman said, “We have learnt there are two conditions. First, the child has to be good-looking. Second, the child cannot be from an upper caste.

Villagers say the family decided to dedicate the girl voluntarily. Some say the parents of the girl did not have children for five years and the mother prayed before the Goddess that in case she was blessed with a girl child, she would hand over the child to the Lord.

“The ceremony of dedicating the child to the deity was performed in a grand way about five years ago. There was no secret in it. A sheep was sacrificed and the celebrations were nothing less than a wedding. Several relatives participated. After the ceremony, she was studying in a government school in Mavinsur from Class I to V. The teachers of the school knew about it but nobody bothered to

inform the government or the police,” Raman said.

After rescuing the child, the team visited the priest who claimed to have initiated “at least 1,000 girls” as Devadasis in the last few decades. When the teams asked the 60-year-old priest how he chooses the girls, he said it was a long-drawn process. According to the priest, the girl should belong to the SC community and should not be physically challenged. The deity, he said, wants only “good-looking girls” who are not from an upper caste. The girl cannot marry since she is dedicated to the goddess, he said.



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