Families in Khedli village in Nuh district of Haryana are gearing up for the arrival of a new bride in the village around the month end. But Marzina, who lived all her life as a paro, shows no excitement.
That’s because she knows the new bride being brought to the village will be a paro. She knows that a price would have been paid to settle the deal. Marzina, a native of Assam, knows what it’s like living a life on the fringes.
The son of her friend Salaha, she says, is physically challenged and has not been able to find a bride for himself. “Salaha and her son have gone to Bihar. They went through a contact,” she confided. The new bride in the village, Marzina feared, will also live a doleful life, the one she has been living all through.
The crisis of purchasing girls for marriage looms in the state for long. The increasing acceptability and institutionalisation of sorts of this culture bestowing validity to such marriage deals is now turning to be a dangerous trend.
The process of purchasing brides through payment has long existed in Haryana. Some of these helpless women have been living in villages for over a decade. Take the case of Farida, who was ‘bought’ and brought from Hyderabad at the age of 25 and was made to marry a man nearly twice her age. For Farida, it was her first marriage and naturally, she had dreams of leading a happy wedded life. But that was not what destiny had in store for her. She was blinded from the fact that her husband had six children from his first marriage.
Illusions and realities
His first wife had died of tuberculosis and so the man needed a woman to take care of the kids and satisfy his sexual needs. His search for a local girl was unsuccessful which was when he came across a middleman in Palwal in Haryana. A deal was agreed upon. Farida’s family was poor and couldn’t afford to meet the dowry demands of men in their area.
For them, the marriage proposal would not only help their daughter to have a better future but also brought them some monetary return. Eventually, the girl was brought to Mewat.
She had to toil like a servant at home and nurse her husband’s six children for years. She was not allowed to visit her parents in Hyderabad. She came to know about their death only after a couple of years. “I was made to slog in the house like a maid and was addressed in derogatory terms. My dignity remained bruised all through,” she rues. Even worse, she was thrown out of the house after her husband’s death. Today, Fatima struggles to meet ends without a space for living.
Stories of inhuman treatment as a fallout of such unverified, unregistered marriage deals can be heard in every corner of these villages. A 35-year-old man in Haryana’s Jhajjar could not find a bride for him despite all attempts. A 20-year-old woman was purchased from Bihar through a reference. The woman was at the mercy of the husband. She was kept as a sex slave to produce children. But she was asked to stay away from her children. While she was treated as a servant, she was not allowed to come out of the house and interact with the villagers. She was kept under constant watch. After she gave birth to a son, the child was separated from her and given to her husband’s elder brother’s wife. This woman was termed mad and worthless by her family. She still struggles to endure the pain.
Women like these, says Professor Rajesh Gill of the Department of Sociology, Panjab University, have adapted to life sans dignity. Years of enduring pain and insult have driven them to a point where they accept the violence and abuse on them and fail to resist, Prof Gill feels. In some cases, widows and abandoned ‘purchased brides’ are rehabilitated by social or government interventions. But those with children face enormous challenges.
A report prepared by the Centers with potential excellence in particular areas, a scheme of University Grants Commission, and Department of Sociology in Panjab University, documents cases of ‘purchased brides’ in Haryana and Punjab. It illustrates the case of Saleem (name changed), who was married 20 years ago and has six daughters. Saleem, the report states, who purchased a bride for himself, now acts as a middleman for ‘bride hunters’.
The report elucidates: Saleem went to Bihar with a man who informed him that there was an eligible girl in his village whom he could get married. Saleem accompanied the man to Gaya in Bihar and stayed there for 15 days before marrying the girl. Saleem claimed that the whole expenditure on the wedding was borne by him and he also paid some amount to the middleman. Saleem said he then spent about Rs 5,000 for the marriage deal.
Saleem had four girls from his wife after which doctors told him that his wife could no longer be able to bear a child. But Saleem wanted a son, and so started to explore the possibilities of a second marriage. He went to Jharkhand and married a 30-year-old girl by spending about Rs 25,000 on the entire arrangement. Saleem, again, did not have a son from the second marriage.
The report states that his first wife was in acute depression, something which Saleem refused to acknowledge. Saleem used to badly thrash his first wife due to which she lost her mental balance, villagers were quoted in the report. The man used to hit her daughters as well, he gave talaq (divorce) to his first wife and even tried to sell her. He is now a middleman purchasing brides from Bihar and Jharkhand to the village in Haryana.
Every village in the Mewat region of Haryana has a story to share, a story of betrayal, misery and helplessness.