Haryana’s crisis: Bridegrooms all decked up, but no one to marry

Chandigarh: Vices of the past are catching up with the Haryanvi society. Years of rampant sex selective abortions and rigid marriage laws in the Jat community have led to a `drought’ of brides. The state with the dubious distinction of the worst sex ratio in the country is now facing a crisis finding matches for its `gabru jawans’ (boys of marriageable age), who have no choice but to look for brides outside the state.

But `importing a bride’ is not an easy task. It has resulted in human trafficking becoming a common practice in Haryana. Studies on the issue reveal that thousands of women from rural areas of other states including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh etc. have been either brought or `bought’ for marriage purposes. These women are called `molkis’ in Haryana, because the buyers pay money to the girls’ parents. The skewed sex ratio (877 females per 1000 males in the state according to the 2011 census), ensures that there are just not enough brides for the large number of bridegrooms on the `waiting list’.

 Haryana’s crisis: Bridegrooms all decked up, but no one to marry

Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters

While majority of the brides have adjusted themselves to the robust Haryanvi lifestyle, there are also instances of women not being able to adjust to the customs and traditions of the state. Haryanvis in the rural areas have a practice of sitting idle smoking hukkahs, even as their wives perform all household as well as outside chores, a practice unique to the state. There are instances where these `purchased brides’ have been forced to work as maids, exploited or even denied their basic rights.

It was in this context that OP Dhankar, senior BJP leader and president of the Bhartiya Kisan Morcha suggested recently that the party could get girls from Bihar for the eligible bachelors of the state if the BJP came to power in the state. What he really meant was that instead of trafficking marriageable girls from other states, marriages could be solemnised in a legal manner with a little help from his party. But Dhankar’s `Bihari brides for Haryanvi boys’ remark, which seemed offensive at the moment, was objected to by the Bihar State Women Commission (SWC) which slapped a notice on him immediately.

Maintaining that Dhankar’s remark was offensive and `very insulting’ to the women of the state, the Commission said it would proceed against Dhankar after receiving his reply, according to Anjum Ara, SWC Chairperson.

According to Dr Anita Yadav, Director, Women Studies Centre (WSC), Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, there are at least 6-7 brides from outside the state in almost all of the 6,000 villages of Haryana. Many of such brides are sexually and mentally harassed, many live in inhospitable conditions. In some cases the bride becomes common `property’ of male members in the family. This is exploitation of the worst kind. Sources say the `fee’ charged by the dalals for procuring women as brides from other states ranges between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000. Since these women are poor and illiterate in most cases, they allow themselves to be subjugated and exploited.

Families of boys who procure wives from other states never accept that they have actually paid money, but it is a fact that they are ready to pay anything between Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000 for them. An independent study conducted in Haryana showed that there is hardly any village out of 6000 villages if the state where there are no such cases found. Jats of the state face the most shortage of brides, according to the study. There are agents spread all over the state who are engaged in the `business’ of buying girls from outside the state. They charge their professional `fee’ from the parents of both the boys and the girls for finding suitable match.

"It is most unfortunate that brides have to be bought from other states for the boys of Haryana. Just shows where the society is heading as a result of high percentage of female foetecide," says Karamvir Singh, president of the Confederation of SC/BC/ ST Organisations. "Initially it becomes very difficult for the girls from other region to adjust in Haryana, but slowly they become used to it, Besides coming from very poor families, they don’t actually have any choice, but to learn to live in the new environment. An even disturbing fact is that in some Jat families a single molki from outside the state is married to many men and denied their basic human right of living in dignity and honour," he adds.

Dr Santosh Dahiya, one of the leading woman Khap leaders of the state and national president of Akhil Bhartiya Mahila Shakti Manch, says now that there is so much shortage of brides among the Jat community, the boys in Haryana are left with no choice, but to marry outside. "We have been carrying out an aggressive campaign for the last few years to give women bought or brought from outside the same `maan-samman’ (honour and dignity) as any local woman. We want marriages to be solemnized in a proper manner instead of the girls being bought," she says.

Talking about the agents involved in the `bride business’, Dahiya says there are organized gangs operating in the state. "These agents are professionals. They work like a mafia and never come out in the open. Problems for the girls start when they are exploited by their in-laws, ill-treated or sometimes even re-sold."

According to Khushwant Singh from Rohtak, the skewed sex-ratio among the Jats in Haryana is the prime reason for the shortage of girls. "The rigid system of not allowing inter-caste marriages or not marrying same gotra girls has only led to increase the shortage of brides. How long will the community depend on girls from other states? The need of the hour is to learn from past mistakes and stop killing females, besides making marriages more flexible. Otherwise the problem will just persist, but also get worse in the coming years," he says.

Updated Date: Jul 20, 2014 19:17:20 IST