HER WORLD Sunday, December 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India

The Tribune’s Woman of the Year 2002


Dear readers,

The Year 2001 was the Year of Women’s Empowerment as declared by the UN. Did this make any difference to this country?

In any case, Indian women are marching ahead in different areas of national life. They have successfully carved out a place for themselves even in exclusively male-dominated arenas. For creating the India of our dreams, it is necessary that women come to the fore. Keeping this objective in view, we invite you all to vote for the most outstanding Indian Woman of the year 2000. She can belong to any field or area of activity.

Giving reasons for your choice, write to us in not more than 200 words and send your entries within one week at the following address: The Editor, The Tribune, Sector 29-C, Chandigarh. Or e-mail to [email protected]

Mark your entry "Tribune’s Woman of the Year 2002." 
— Editor

Social monitor
Married to non-reliable Indians
Teena Singh
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 unfaithful husbands
Japanese women are turning to police science as they try to keep tabs on their husbands to see if they are cheating on them. 

Crossing boundaries
Rainbow waiting to break out of the clouds
Anees Jung
NNE 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.




Social monitor
Married to non-reliable Indians
Teena Singh

Nalesh Prasad and Neeraj Bala on their wedding day
Nalesh Prasad and Neeraj Bala
on their wedding day

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.

Gurpreet Kaur at her wedding with Manpreet Singh
Gurpreet Kaur at her wedding with
Manpreet Singh

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.

Monita’s tale of misery

I, Monita Anand, daughter of Sardar Charanjit Singh resident of Dehra Dun, got engaged on the May 16, 1996, to Manjit Singh Anand, a Green Card holder of Houston, Texas, USA. My engagement ceremony took place in Chandigarh. He has been residing in America for the last 12 years. His parents are staying in Mustafabad, Haryana.

The marriage took place as planned in Chandigarh at the Gurdwara Sahib of Sector 35. On his advice, I applied for the tourist visa to America on August 1, 1997, on the passport bearing my maiden name. At that time, I was four month pregnant. Due to lack of proper documents, however, my visa was refused. During this time I was staying with my in-laws. On September 26, 1997. I applied for the tourist visa once again, on the advice of my husband and, fortunately, I got the visa. I left for the USA on September 29, 1997. I was five months pregnant when I reached America. My husband did not bother about the fact that I was pregnant. He used to ill treat me and even physically torture me. He used to stay out of the house at night for three to four days a week. Due to lack of emotional support from my husband, I called upon my in-laws for help in India. They refused, saying that they had their own responsibilities and could not come. In 1998, my father-in-law and mother-in-law alongwith my sister-in-law and her three children arrived in the USA. On July 23, 1998, they sent me back to India, saying that I would be called back .

The third phase of torture started when my father-in-law and mother-in-law came to India. We all went to Mustafabad. I was not allowed to step out of the house or to speak to anyone, my condition was like that of a maid servant. The torture had crossed all limits. I left in only the clothes that I was wearing as they refused to give me any. My husband threatens me and my father that he intentionally called me on a visitor’s visa and will ensure that I am implicated in a 420 case. Today I am completely dependent on my father. My son is four and a half years old. All this was planned by my in-laws. They are also trying to leave India as soon as possible, after selling off all their property.

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".

Watch out! It’s your daughter’s life, after all

  • Address the problem of drink and drugs to cure the hidden economic mess.

  • Educate and create jobs locally in order to decrease the lure of foreign lands.

  • Understanding with foreign governments for cancellation of immigration on proof of accepting dowry.

  • A provision in the Extradition Treaty should enable the Government of India to bring back the guilty groom and face the law.

  • Compulsory registration of the istri dhan and marriage in the gurdwara.

  • Immigrant groom should file an affidavit specifying his marital status.

  • All NRIs to be issued a special entry token on arrival which needs to be submitted back before leaving the country. The marriage could also be registered on it and further computerised.

  • Any complaint should lead to freezing of local property and barring their re-entry into the country.

  • Out of lakhs spent on wedding arrangements, parents need to spend an odd lakh to travel abroad in order to check out the credentials of the groom.

  • Girls need to fight all emotional pressure for such marriages.

  • Police certification on the correctness and authenticity of the marriage.

  • Immediate application for married passport and sponsored visa.

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.


How to track down unfaithful husbands

Japanese women are turning to police science as they try to keep tabs on their husbands to see if they are cheating on them. A Tokyo firm of private detectives is selling off-the-shelf forensic kits. The women are sold a special chemical spray which highlights traces of semen in their spouse's underwear. Called "S-check", the chemicals are supplied in two aerosol cans. Each of them is sprayed on the suspect underwear, in turn. If traces of seminal fluid are present, the second spray turns it bright green. The method is thought to be similar to that used by British forensic scientists. Sold by a detective agency in Osaka, company president Takeshi Makino said he is selling 200 a month. Makino said 99 per cent of the people buying the Y35,000 (£175) kit were married women. Also being sold is a gel which a woman rubs into her partner's back before he goes to work. If he has a shower during the day - seen as a telltale sign of an office affair in Japan - the gel reacts with the water to form a give-away blister. Rubbed into a man's socks, it will change the colour of the fabric if the socks are taken off for longer than 15 minutes. Staff refused to reveal the gel's composition, saying only that it is called "infidelity detection cream". But the potential for catching innocent men is very real. James Thorpe, director of the forensic science unit at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, said: "What happens if the man goes to the gym at lunch time? His socks change colour, his back blisters and his wife divorces him. Who said keeping fit was good for you?"



Crossing boundaries
Rainbow waiting to break out of the clouds
Anees Jung

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!