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Veil off border bride barter

Jaipur, July 24: The Delhi-Lahore bus is not the only bridge across the India-Pakistan divide.

Years before the first bus sped off to Pakistan, young women were walking across the border, to either side, as daughters-in-law.

Marriage parties were said to be exchanging visits, secretly, ever since Partition.

The local administration apparently knew all about it but did not bother as the visits were considered “natural” after the “unnatural divide” of age-old ties across the desert.

The latest instance came to light as security forces and local police sat up after the border standoff following the terror attack on Parliament.

Sumari, the “Pakistani” daughter-in-law of Badhu Khan of Asutar Bandha village in Jaisalmer, was arrested on Wednesday under Section 14 of the foreigners’ act.

Official sources said, on a tip-off, “Jaisalmer police and intelligence sleuths, in a joint operation, arrested the Pakistani woman residing illegally in Devikot area of the district”.

Sumari, 23, was married to Gale Khan, son of Badhu, when the two went to Pakistan in 1996 along with Gale’s mother Phula using legal passports and visas, said Prashakha Mathur, superintendent of police (CID), Jodhpur zone.

They were married in Kunda village in Pakistan’s Sindh state, adjoining Jaisalmer. But Sumari was left behind by her in-laws.

She first found a chance to step into her husband’s home four years later when Badhu and Phula returned to get their daughter Babri married to Rahim, Sumari’s brother.

Sumari finally made it to India on Babri’s passport while the new bride stayed back with her new family in Pakistan.

But Sumari and Gale knew the arrangement was illegal. So the couple kept moving houses in the desert hamlets to keep the law at arms length.

The law finally caught up with them after intelligence agencies came to know that border residents had devised a way of “importing and exporting” brides through inter-family exchanges to beat visa restrictions.

Police sources say at least eight daughters-in-law like Sumari are living in Jaisalmer alone.

“Life has been like this in the desert since Pakistan was born. Marriage parties will continue to come and go on either side of the border — maybe with more difficulties,” a border resident said.

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