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Dowry daredevils yes, but what next

New Delhi, May 19: When she slammed the door on her would-be husband last week, Nisha Sharma didn’t know she would set off gutsy sequels. But she did.

Within a week of the Noida girl’s protest against dowry and the call to police that put her fiancé behind bars on what would have been their wedding day, two more women shut their husbands out of their lives.

On May 16, five days after Nisha’s brave act, 21-year-old Anupama Singh refused to accompany her husband, Yoginder Singh, a CRPF constable, soon after their marriage as the groom demanded Rs 8 lakh as dowry.

Two days later, it was the turn of Farzana. The 20-year-old, who married her screen-painter husband, Nadim, four years ago but stayed back at her parents’ home as he demanded more dowry, got her father-in-law, Mohammed Taqi, arrested even as 500-odd guests were present for the Rukhsat ceremony.

She was supposed to leave for her husband’s house after the ceremony. Nadim is on the run.

Women’s groups are hailing the bold acts that they claim would send a social message stronger than any government documentary. But, in the blaze of publicity that Nisha, Anupama and Farzana have received, what appears to have been forgotten is the problems they could face if they decide to marry again.

For Nisha, who comes from a fairly wealthy background, the bold step may not have an adverse effect on her future. But the same may not be true of the others. “It may not be easy for them to enter into wedlock in the near future,” says Sehba Farooqi of the National Federation of Indian Women. Though she applauds all three, Farooqi says there will always be an element of fear that these girls might be isolated.

Farooqi feels there is a need to create awareness that women also have the right to decide on issues like marriage. Her organisation has decided to hold a meeting tomorrow in east Delhi’s Jat-dominated Mondoli, where Anupama comes from. The 21-year-old will be felicitated at the function.

The activist met the textile-designing student at her residence today. According to her, Anupama was scared by the mere thought of harassment she may have had to face at her in-laws’ house in case her parents failed to meet the demands. “They might even have killed me,” Anupama told Farooqi.

Attempts at reconciliation by the panchayat failed. Now a decision has been taken to revoke the marriage. The groom’s family has even returned Rs 1 lakh and a motorcycle given as dowry.

Unlike Nisha, who apparently has many offers of marriage — some even on email — Anupama’s prospects for another marriage are uncertain. The same holds true for Farzana, who also comes from a humble background. She cannot even go in for another marriage till she gets talaq from her husband.

Social activist Brinda Karat met Farzana today. She says she was shocked to find that Farzana’s father-in-law had earlier been jailed for six years for killing his wife and it was quite possible that Farzana might have met the same fate.

Karat says her organisation, the All-India Democratic Women’s Association, did a survey in 18 states, including Delhi, some time ago. The survey, she says, revealed that the practice of dowry, mainly prevalent among the middle and rich classes, is now trickling down to the have-nots also.

“Blind consumerism has led to increase in dowry demands in our society even among Dalits and tribals,” she claims, underlining that more than the harassment it is the social acceptance of dowry that is threatening.

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