Shraddha Shukla, a 12-year old girl is set to reach Varanasi today. While this may sound like a mundane statement, it is not so. The 12-year old girl reportedly started swimming in Ganga on August 28 at 11am and will reach Varanasi by covering a distance of 570 km in water.
The Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UPSCPCR) has ordered a probe into the alleged violation of rights of Shraddha. Mumbai-based documentary filmamker, Vinod Kapri has been filming the girl for seven days, but the matter went south when he questioned the girl’s father Lalit Shukla as to why was Shraddha covering most of the distance on a boat. Consequently, Kapri filed a complaint against Shukla for misbehaving with him when he rose the question while Shukla also lodged a complaint against the filmmaker.
As per Lalit, Kapri started filming without entering in an agreement with them and on being asked to stop, “he threatened me and demanded Rs 2 lakh, which he had spent so far on the shooting,” alleged Shraddha’s father.
Meanwhile, Kapri says, “For two days, I, along with three of my associates, travelled on Lalit Shukla’s boat. We found that most of the time, the girl travelled in the boat instead of swimming. She used to swim before they approached a ghat or when there are people around. She used to spend rest of the time on the boat,” he said. He added that he had called up Lalit after he came to know about Shraddha’s journey.
Claiming that Lalit got irritated when he was questioned, Kapri said he then hired a motor boat for himself and his team. On Saturday, while waiting near Vindhychal ghat in Mirzapur, Kapri said he spotted Lalit’s boats and started filming. “As we approached them, we found the girl sitting in the boat with her father and shot a video. Soon, Shukla started hurling abuses and issued life threats,” he added.
Lalit claims that Shraddha in 2014 too, she swam from Kanpur to Allahabad covering 280 km and this challenge was taken up by Shraddha herself, who this time too started swimming from Kanpur.
Calling her effort as a message for ‘Clean Ganga’ and a simultaneous check on Shraddh’a capacity if she were to represent the country in Olympics, Lali said, “We had prepared for the tour for the last two months. We had requested our relatives, friends, and some private divers to help her in the exercise. We have also arranged for a doctor, who is our family friend, to attend to her.”
During her journey, Shraddha was accompanied by her father Lalit, six private divers and uncle Mahesh Shukla, while, other relatives travelled along them in an SUV.
“A net has been thrown between two boats to ensure that Shraddha does not go deep. After every 15 to 20 km, we stop our boats and pull her out of the water. We apply cream on her body and give her something to eat. We have made eight-night halts before we reached Mirzapur on Sunday,” Lalit said, adding that Shraddha had started swimming at the age of three.
UPSCPCR chairperson Juhie Singh said: “I have sent a letter to the Kanpur district magistrate on Sunday, soon after a member of the commission in the city informed me about the controversy. I have asked the DM to inquire into all aspects, including whether the father was violating child rights.” When contacted, Kanpur DM Kaushal Raj Sharma said, “I have handed over the probe to the additional city magistrate.”