In India, in the capital city of Delhi alone, every two weeks a bride is burned alive or murdered for the curse of a dowry, leaving aside the alarming figures from the other parts of India. In societies where grooms are bought by the girls for the negotiated dowry- price, girls are burdens for those parents who have no boys for a cross deal.
The parents who only have boys are considered to be fortunate enough, expecting a good deal of profit in the Dowry business. For them boys are good assets and girls are considered to be deficits or losses. In other words dowry is a good income business for the parents of sons, whereas it is a curse to the parents who only have daughters.
Such parents invest a reasonably good amount in the boy’s education. They don’t hesitate to give the boy his pocket money when he asks for it. They also spend enough for his clothes and other entertainments. The money they spend in bringing up the boy from the cradle to maturity with an education of their choice will return with compound interest when a number of parents will approach them to fetch a good husband for their daughter.
They will select a daughter-in-law who has rich parents and who will agree to pay the dowry of their choice. There is always a place for negotiation. There is a shortage of boys in such societies and hence the girls have to pay a reasonably good amount of dowry to get married in the fairly recognized family and with the boys of their match and choice.
If the boy agrees to take a particular girl to be his wife, only then negotiations start between the parents of both the parties. The nearest relatives or the known friends are there as witnesses and the final deal is written on a piece of paper and signed by both parties with the witnesses on the both sides. The terms and conditions of the payment of cash and goods are clearly mentioned. The clause of default is clearly agreed and mentioned in the writing, which is always hazardous for the parents of the girl who can’t pay the amount at the agreed time. It is just like SATA KARAR NAMA, which is in fact unofficial and illegal, but very strictly followed by both the parties concerned.
There is a certain amount of cash to be given as an advance to the parents of the boy to arrange their part of the marriage ceremony. Otherwise the main expenses of the marriage ceremony are totally on the side of the girl. Part of the money is given during the marriage ceremony. If the agreed amount is not produced before the actual marriage ceremony, the parents of the girl will be in great trouble. The ceremony will be stopped, the parents of the girl accused and insulted for the breach of KARAR NAMA agreement in the presence of the relatives and the large number of invited guests.
The parents of the girl will try to buy some more time, apologize for failing to pay as agreed, fall to their knees and try to save the situation as best they can. In most cases it does not happen. The bridegroom is forced to abandon the ceremony by his parents and leave the place just like that, with the relatives and the invited guests on his side. The relatives and the invited guests of the bride will stay for the time being and sympathize with the situation, condole with the parents and disperse. The food prepared for hundreds of people is another headache for the parents, left helpless as such.
The offended parents of the poor helpless girl still try to sort out the issue by discussing the matter with their nearest relatives and if they kindly come forward to assist them, an urgent message is sent to the groom’s parents, who will come back to the place and, on getting the amount as agreed, will then agree to go though with completing the ceremony. The Brahman, the Hindu priest, who conducts the marriage ceremony, will wait to the last minute and take his part whether the ceremony is completed or not. That is normal and no one would abuse him for that. He is very much used to such disturbed instances.
At some events the groom demands an extra item for him or some more expensive items than agreed during the negotiations in the middle of the ceremony and, if his demand is not fulfilled, he threatens to quit the place. The parents of the bride have no alternative but to agree. Many cases of grooms quitting the marriage ceremony forever are noted and the situation of the bride and her parents becomes intolerable. Parents and even the bride committing suicide in this terrible situation is a common case.
If everything goes well as agreed, the bride enters the home of her husband and tries to settle in the new atmosphere. It is not long until the next agreed installment time threatens her. If her parents fail to turn up on time, she will be banned from visiting her parents, even on special occasions. The ban will be rescinded on the payment as agreed. Still, if there is more delay, the girl will be tortured, beaten and sometimes thrown out of the house empty-handed and she is warned not to return in the house without money.
The girl comes to the parents’ house, appeals to the parents to look for money from somewhere to enable her to stay in her house with her husband. Sometimes the parents manage to borrow money from relatives or from a lender and the girl goes back to her house where now she is treated no better than a servant. If she has come with part of the payment and not the full payment, she will be mistreated again. In the end if she fails to bring the money as per demand either from her husband or the in-laws, she will be given poison in her food or burned alive in the kitchen by pouring kerosene over her body or a gas leak. She might even be strangled with a rope. Any method used will be very carefully made to look like suicide or an accident.
Suicide is very common among such girls who are really fed up with the insults and the torture from their husbands and their entire family. The in-laws misuse the weakness of such cases and kill their daughter-in laws mercilessly to bring another daughter in law with another fresh dowry. Sometimes the entire family is involved in this matter and they gather to trap the bride to a corner and either she is burned alive or murdered and then burned. Sometimes she is strangled to death and then her body is hanged to prove the case of a suicide. Even a bogus note that she is committing suicide of her own free will without involving anybody’s name is left on the table to avoid any fingers being pointed at the husband or the in-laws.
At several events the culprits are arrested through some evidence or eyewitnesses and picked up by the police. Police who can do away with the evidence and the witnesses on the grounds of corruption wind up some of the cases. A big amount of money is poured by the criminals to prove them non-guilty. Many of them are brought in the court by honest police officers but the advocates can still prove the cases not valid. Sometimes the magistrate gives his ruling in favour of the culprits by getting a substantial amount behind the curtain. Lack of evidence encourages such culprits to go for another crime of the same kind.
Only the well-to-do and influential parents of the bride could bring the culprits to the right justice. Thus the criminals who are acquitted once more get a golden opportunity to trap another girl for a fat dowry and after collecting the major part of the dowry from her, kill her in either way this time with some more experience and more confidence and easily prove the case as suicide or an accident. Thus the DOWRY business goes on and several innocent girls become the prey of such evil business.
In a country which boasts of its strong democracy and a country which thoroughly believes in non-violence, such brutal and inhuman cases of bride-killing should be avoided completely from the ground roots.
It is a great shame for the country, which has risen to the top of the world in the field of female education and where women play an important role in parliament. It is a black spot in the history of the Hindu religion, which is even against the killing of innocent insects and animals. It is a great setback for the organisations, which come out in full force and shake the whole country when the non-Hindu kills a cow to their knowledge. Where are the brothers of such sisters at this time when their innocent sisters are tortured to death – who have vowed to safeguard the peaceful existence of their sisters during ‘Raksha Bandhan’? Where are the pioneers of human rights organisations at this time who attack the government when a few people are killed or burned in the communal riots?
And to everyone’s surprise, it is a cruel fact that in most of the cases brought to light, the culprits or the suspects are from the educated classes. Many of them are engineers, doctors, professors and even advocates. There have been certain cases where the families of the judges in charge were also involved. And shockingly enough – the family members and the relatives of the area police chief are found to be involved and the particular case is being handled by the same police officer.
Recently it was in the news that in one particular state of India, an area MP attempted to strangle his daughter-in-law because of the long delay of the agreed instalment of the dowry and the case was settled out of court when the MP paid a good amount of money to the brother of the girl who forced his parents to withdraw the case.
It is high time the government should be serious enough to see that the law passed against the Dowry System actually works in practice and not only on paper. The religious, social and welfare organisations and specially the women’s organisations at large should come out in full force to wipe out the Dowry System completely and save many innocent brides from the hell of torture and merciless killings. The anti-corruption department should turn out strongly against the corrupt police department, justice department and the advocates who play a major role to harass the complainants and the witnesses through aggressive cross examination.
THE DOWRY SYSTEM IS ILLEGAL ON THE GOVERNMENT RECORD BUT IT STILL PREVAILS IN ABUNDANCE IN SEVERAL PARTS OF INDIA. It should come to an end by all means and the brutal killings of the innocent BRIDES should be stopped with immediate effect.