December 22, 2002,
Married to non-reliable Indians
SUNEET Kaur’s gaunt frame shakes with cries with big sunken eyes and jutting cheekbones looks at me helplessly. Does any party, and politician, any bureaucrat have the intentions to champion the cause of girls deserted by greedy NRIs? So caught up are they in their own petty politicking and oneupmanship and political vendetta.
How to track down
SUNEET Kaur’s gaunt frame shakes with cries with big sunken eyes and jutting cheekbones looks at me helplessly. Does any party, and politician, any bureaucrat have the intentions to champion the cause of girls deserted by greedy NRIs? So caught up are they in their own petty politicking and oneupmanship and political vendetta. Misguided parents or helpless mothers and siblings hoping for a better future or alcoholic fathers and irresponsible brothers or greedy NRIs (Non-resident Indians)—all contribute to the exploitation of young girls by NRIs in the name of marriage. Left alone, or with children, they look for support from a society that takes pleasure in focusing on issues only for personal gratification.
From Guddi in Hong Kong, to Manpreet Kaur, to Rajwinder of village Kotli Jamiat Singh or Krishna of village Alampur Chapran—the list is unending.
Mohinder Kaur, Narinder, Gurpreet and Monita Anand are helpless in our society. They are hoping that there truly shall be one amongst us who shall be macho enough to save their honour, and save them from NRIs treating them as mere sex objects for holidays in India in the name of a wedding and walking away with their dignity, wealth and their reputation.
Manpreet Kaur married Pritpal Singh of Gopalpur, Jagraon, on June 17, 2001. After spending a few months here with her, he went back to Vancouver (Canada). After six long agonising months, his parents informed her that he died on December 16, 2001 and shunned any further contact with her.
Suneet Kaur went to the USA after one year of her marriage. Ill-treated and abused, she has now been sent back and her passport etc has been confiscated by her mother-in-law. Having lost her father as a child, Suneet has a younger sibling and a mother whom she is now trying to support through her job as a college lecturer in Jalandhar. Completely shattered emotionally and having lost all her money to her NRI husband she hopes someone, somewhere, somehow, someday shall do justice.
Gurpreet Kaur married Manpreet Singh Kohli of Ludhiana and is desperately trying to find the strength to fight a hopeless battle against this man, once her husband, who has vanished somewhere in Ontario (Canada) and is now on the look out to bring his parents to Canada after disposing of all property in India.
Narinder Kaur of Jalandhar’s husband has changed his identity and gone to Canada. She has to fend for herself and her child.
Mohinder Kaur of Hoshiarpur is being supported by her brother Amarjeet Singh who is living in Amritsar. He is finding it difficult to support his sister and her son, studying in +1. He prays for justice even after she has spent a lifetime after being jilted.
Neeraj Bala married Nalesh Parshad of Jalandhar in 2002. Nalesh was related to an old family friend. It was manipulated that the boy and girl did not meet each other. Every time a date for the meeting was fixed and postponed while marriage preparations were insisted upon. All emotional tactics and pressures were used—from swearing upon Radha Soami Guru to putting turbans on the feet etc. Marriage had 25 milnis all the shaguns and gifts while the boy brought nothing. The in-laws said they wanted the girl to shop later to her heart’s content. In the 15 days together, the bridegroom did not even talk to Neeraj Bala, leave alone touch her. Now, they have left for America taking all the dowry and feel no need to even talk to the Indian ‘dogs’.
The list of women who have been duped by avaricious NRIs is unending. Various social groups including Mahila, Dakshita Samiti operating in Chandigarh under the dynamism of Pam Rajput, does try and take up an odd case. Pam teaches political science and also heads the Women’s Cell in the Panjab University. "Being a part of the women’s cell and heading Mahila Dakshita, my focus was already onto women and the violence in their life. Thus the NRI v/s Punjab women scam naturally drew my attention. Attending various conferences on women internationally in the UN, England, Canada and the USA led to more focus on this problem. We remain in constant touch with women centres in Montreal, England and New Jersey. Cases from Punjab are handled by us while the others are passed on to their respective regional or state centres. Unfortunately, there is nothing much we can do as a remedial measure. Our laws have no teeth, no treaties to handle deceitful men internationally. All we manage is some legal guidance for the need to fight and a lot of morale boosting for the frayed soul. To the question, if we can not offer remedies are preventive measures more effective, she replies: "Certainly, in fact we have finalised a module to teach women their rights. May be this awareness shall save many from getting exploited at the hands of selfish parents and greedy husbands". As far as social awareness towards this problem is concerned, Pam says, unfortunately, most daughters remain an unwanted commodity. For parents, if they have let her survive, she just becomes a means to a foreign land. Once they have been married off, they are least interested in her and her pitiable plight. The man she married is her new master. As she recounts, "I know of an Army Officer’s daughter, who with great difficulty manage to escape from her basement prison in Canada to ask for help from us and her parents. Her father just refused to reach out. We finally helped her to become self-sufficient. The need of the hour is to inculcate a certain respect for women. From female foeticide, to total disregard of a daughter or a wife’s preferences and to the utter submission of our women, irrespective of education, are all symbolic of the abhorrence for the female species. Imagine English was made compulsory some years ago, only to facilitate marriage with NRIs and not with any other states".
What are the reasons for this problem:
Acute problem of alcoholism and drugs is leading to non-earning men.
These men, in-charge of properties and finances, sell lands or borrow heavily, leading to hidden economic failure.
To combat financial crises or to give a direction to a wayward son, the daughters are married to NRIs as a panacea for all the family’s problems.
Most wayward NRI grooms are homegrown vagabonds who are just managing to survive in a foreign land and still lust for more money and property from India.
Some of these runaway grooms feel pushed into alliances with homely Indian girls, while they would, any day, still prefer a gori mem.
What is the legal position
Our outdated laws and rulings leave a lot to be desired. However, the court tries to help to whatever extent possible, since the loopholes are many and there is no treaty between nations to solve this problem in a concerted manner.
In one of it’s judgments, the Supreme Court elaborated on the problem and did come up with suggestions. In the case of Smt Neeraja Saraph Versus Shri Jayant V. Saraph & Anr.
Before R. M. Sahai & N. P. Singh, JJ, the Honourable Judges of Supreme Court of India decided on 6.10.1994.
R. M. Sahai, J. These appeals directed against the interim order passed by the High Court in an appeal filed by respondent No. 2 against rejection of an application for setting aside of an expat’s decree, raises an important issue as how to protect the right and interest of women who are deserted by non-resident Indians on decree of annulment obtained from foreign courts.
The plight of women and their exploitation both inside and outside the house socially and economically is ancient. Mass of literature has been written to elevate their status. But a new social evil is surfacing. Any matrimonial column of any newspaper or magazine carries a column that a NRI seeks Indian bride without any demand. The attraction of getting a groom and that too one who is serving or earning abroad without dowry, lures many, especially from the middle class. Even otherwise, parental insistence for an Indian bride in the hope that his son is not lost forever is not uncommon. The result, at times, is a matrimonial alliance by a reluctant husband to assuage the sentiments of his parents. The victim is the helpless, poor, educated girl, normally of a middle class family with dreams of a foreign land.
In para 3 and 4, the court elaborated in short the story of a MA, B.Ed daughter of a senior Air Force officer, serving as a teacher and drawing Rs 3000 as salary, way back in 1989. The husband of the girl, a doctorate in computer hardware and employed in the USA persuaded the girl to give up her job for better options in the USA. Then suddenly a few months later all contact broke. The father-in-law in question felt agonised enough to criticise his son and write a letter of apology to the daughter-in-law. The court granted this incident as an unfortunate experiment for the father-in-law but helped the girl to get some financial aid in a case vehemently contested by the father-in-law and his son.
In para 5 the court elaborated further why the facts of this case have been narrated in brief with little background is to impress upon the need and necessity for appropriate steps to be taken in this direction to safeguard the interest of women. Although it is a problem of Private International Law and can not easily be resolved, but with changes in the social structure and rising number of marriages of Indian girls with NRIs, the Union of India may consider enacting a law like the Foreign Judgement (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, 1933 enacted by the British Parliament under Section (1) in pursuance of which the Government of United Kingdom issued Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgment (India) Order, 1958.
Apart from it, there are other enactments such as the Indian and Colonial Divorce Jurisdiction Act 1940 which safeguards the interest as far as the United Kingdom is concerned. But the rule of domicile replacing the nationality rule in most of the countries for assumption of jurisdiction and granting relief in matrimonial matters has resulted in a conflict of laws. What this domicile rule is, is not necessary to be gone into. But the feasibility of a legislation safeguarding the interest of women may be examined by the incorporation of such provisions as:
No marriage between a NRI and an Indian woman which has taken place in India may be annulled by a foreign court;
Provision may be made for adequate alimony to the wife in the property of husband both in India and abroad.
The decree granted by
Indian courts may be made executable in foreign courts both on
principle of comity and by entering into reciprocal agreements like
Section 44-A of the Civil Procedure Code which makes a foreign decree
executable as it would have been a decree passed by that court.
ANNE Frank wrote her diary when she was 13 years old. She wrote it closeted in a secret place with her family, cut off from a world which raged with the terror of Nazis. The memory of that sensitive young girl came racing back across time and space as five Indian women raised their voices remembering her spirit as they enacted a play inspired and entitled after her. The Spirit of Anne Frank, premiered significantly on December 6, to mark the 10th anniversary of another carnage that wounds our own national memory, is more than a play.
Travelling in a woman's compartment, suspended as a small box, within the backdrop of a burnt train, are five women nursing secretly not only their personal anguish but a wider fear imposed by the world in which they must live and survive. In the voice of each of the five women—represented admirably by Zohra Sehgal, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das,Mandakini Goswami and Anastasia Flewin, a contemporary dance student from Australia - I was hearing voices of women, old and young, conservative and modern, traditional and learning to dare who surround me and my daily reality. Each voice was telling not it’s own story, specific to that one woman alone. Each voice carried resonances of a thousand stories that one hears from women across our strange land ravaged by the weakness of age and time.
In the voice of the tarot card reader I found myself hearing Shabana. A refined artiste, she has pondered over the enigmas of life's realities and sought gently through her work and reflections her own philosophical answers. In the play her voice evokes the tragedy of the tarot card reader who has lost a husband and three children in a car accident, who wants to end her life but doesn't for that would have been an easy way out. Instead, she decides to do penance, which means summoning up the moral courage to live. And as she lives she transmits that courage to others who come into the circle of her life. In this instance, it is the other four women travelling with her, each nursing and hiding an inner pain and anguish.
Zohra Sehgal, who calls herself Chandramukhi, is an elderly retired history teacher. True to her time that was streaked by veiled lies and prejudices, she evokes fantasies of a Devdas who never happened in her life. Unlike Chandramukhi, the much-desired object of love, this one was doomed to remain a spinster, living alone, inventing harmless lies to keep alive a level of sanity. When Zohra Sehgal was spilling out her earthy, time-worn views I was hearing the echoes of her generation who walk around us every day reinforcing prejudices that nag and disturb everyday lives. And in the voice of Nandita Das sizzled the anger and frustration of the young modern girl that even while it hits out at the walls of dead custom and tradition, needs to hide behind them for sheer survival. That's what Nandita must do in the play, call herself Anamika, the nameless one. But Shabana the Tarot card reader gives it a better interpretation - not one who is nameless but that which cannot be named. In both meanings hides a larger truth. The girl is fleeing her only threatened reality by calling herself "nameless". In reality her name is Muslim. "I must give myself another name in order to be myself," she trembles with the assertion that stems not alone from anger but a deep fear. In her voice I was hearing the voices of hundreds of Muslim women who are reticent even to utter their names lest they are discovered and made to pay a price, raped if not done to death as we see happening in the communal riots that invade everyday our reality. A textile designer by vocation , adeptly wrapping her fears in a gossamer veil, Anamika unfolds the story of a lost love, lost to her because she was Muslim and he a Hindu. The listener, another young woman, an Australian tourist , too has been betrayed. She has come in search of the man who she fell in love with on the Internet. She loses her fantasy when she arrives at his door to discover that in real life he is less true than on the Web. The color of his toothbrush is green as he described but his life bears a colour he never divulged. He is a married man with three children. Betrayed, the girl chooses not to run away but decides to explore the man's country and discover her own truth through her creativity, her dance. As does the fifth woman, the silent watcher who is a singer learning Dhrupad. Her name is Purbani, the voice of the east which she is, from Assam. Her silence breaks into song that hides the carnage she has witnessed. A victim of communal hatred she has seen a mother, a father and all her sisters killed in front of her eyes. The only way she can cope with her anguish is through her song which is more a voice of lament that perhaps heals her pain. Binding as if the traumas of all the four is Shabana, the tarot card reader. She helps a distraught old Zohra, the lonely history teacher who only dreams of raising a temple in a mixed neighbourhood with conflicting values of faith to look at the five cards she has shuffled. What does the old one see? Only black, black and black. She makes her shuffle the cards again, close her eyes and think of all the love she has given to her family, her friends and others. When she opens her eyes she no longer sees black but red and blue, mauve and green—all the happy colours of flowers in the garden.
"You have done wonders," says the old woman. "No, I have done nothing. I have only helped you see your own radiance," says the tarot card reader. If only each woman in this distraught land be like the tarot card reader, helping the many women around her to look into the tarot cards not just the black that threatens them but the radiance of that hidden rainbow which is waiting to break out of the clouds and make a halo over the distant horizon!