Aurangabad: A WhatsApp message sent by an alert neighbour to a Mumbai journalist, who in turn alerted the authorities, helped prevent a minor girl's marriage in this tourist city, officials said on Saturday.
Prompt police action foiled the marriage of the girl - aged 17 years and 8 months - in Harsul area of the city on Friday afternoon.
The Mumbai journalist forwarded the WhatsApp message to the Maharashtra State Women's Commission Chairperson Vijaya Rahate.
"As it sounded serious, I contacted the Aurangabad Deputy Commissioner of Police-Zone II Rahul Shrirame around 9 a.m., requesting him to look into the matter urgently," Rahate said.
"I immediately despatched a two-member police team from the local Harsul police station to go and fully enquire into the matter and inform me of the factual position," Shrirame told IANS.
The police team led by Inspector Dnyanesh Sable reached the marriage venue where full merry-making was underway with dancing, music and the marriage feast being readied nearby.
"We went and met the families of the bride and the groom who were making last-minute preparations for the 'mangal mahurat' scheduled at 11 a.m. in an adjacent temple," Sable told IANS.
As the guests continued their revelry, Sable and his men made discreet investigations with the two families and learnt that the girl was indeed a minor and could not be married for at least another four months as per Indian law. The legal age to marry for women in India is 18.
The police learnt that the teen came from a very poor family, her mother had deserted her father who is paralysed since years and unable to support the family, and dependent on relatives for sheer survival.
A marriage proposal was received for the girl at a recent family wedding, which her uncle and others pursued and the wedding was finalised for May 5.
Sable informed DCP Shrirame and the police counselled the two families, making it absolutely clear that if they went ahead with the wedding they could face stringent police action.
"Fortunately, the boy's side also understood the gravity of the situation. They have decided to perform the marriage after some more months elapses and the girl is legally eligible to marry," DCP Shrirame said.
In a bid to assuage the feelings of the large number of wedding guests, the police team requested them to partake of the marriage feast, but minus the wedding, of course.
The police also requested the guests to ensure they returned to bless the couple at their 'legal marriage' after four months, and received a huge round of applause in the marquee for their prudent handling of the delicate situation.
Shrirame and Rahate said that though social networking sites have a lot of irrelevant stuff circulating, if used properly it can act as a major catalyst in preventing such potentially serious incidents.