Sultan Ahmed at Jharkhand Marriage Bureau at Malhatoli in Ranchi last week. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Jan. 12: A couple of months ago, Shankar Kachchap, the gram pradhan of Sithio village, used to be bewildered by the new set of questions fathers of prospective brides asked him.
More than job, income, family, habits or addictions, match-makers and parents of brides wanted to know if the boy in question is related to or friends with any youth allegedly associated with the Indian Mujahideen (IM) or is a suspected recruit.
Now, Kachchap is resigned to the inevitable questions. The village, on the outskirts of Ranchi, hit national headlines last year after the October 27 bomb blasts in Patna during Narendra Modi’s Hunkar Rally. Four of the suspects — alleged IM recruits — were found to be from Sithio.
Alleged bomber Imtiyaz Ansari, arrested from Patna on October 27 itself, is the son of a middle-class family of the village. His father Kamaluddin Ansari, a retired employee of HEC, is a grocer.
So now, when parents of marriageable daughters of the minority community ask questions about a prospective groom’s credentials, Kachchap knows they are placing a huge responsibility on him.
“Parents have become very cautious now,” Kachchap, who would not utter the word “terrorist”, said. “I understand their worries. But I don’t want my village to be branded negatively. I don’t want it blacklisted for one reason,” he rues.
Sithio was just another humdrum, cosmopolitan village on the capital fringes in Nam-kum block. Now, it is a familiar name for all the wrong reasons.
But being a fairly large village with over 600 families living in 20 tolas stretched across its length and breadth, Sithio has a number of eligible grooms. Vinita Kachchap, the mukhiya of Sithio panchayat, also faces the same questions.
“I believe everybody should try to know more about families before marrying off their girls into them. But I really don’t like the way questions are raised about Sithio boys now. People ask if the prospective grooms were friends of the blast accused,” she said.
The gram pradhan added some marriages of Sithio youths were cancelled after the connection of the village with the Patna blasts was established. “Don’t ask me about the families because we heartily want the boys to get married soon,” he added.
“Due to a handful of youths, every man in a minority-dominated area can’t get tarred with the same brush,” says Sultan Ahmed of Jharkhand Marriage Bureau in Malhatoli, adjacent to Hindpiri in Ranchi.
The marriage bureau caters to the minority community for free. At present, it is handling over 2,500 profiles of boys and girls from Jharkhand, Bihar, Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi.
Ahmed, a retired principal of St Paul’s School in Ranchi, said Patna blasts, the Hindpiri hostel raid and NIA investigations have made groom-hunters shaky.
“Families of brides want additional information about grooms, the nitty-gritty of their past and present associations. At the bureau, we maintain profiles. When we can’t give minute details, we ask parents to make inquiries on their own,” he said.
“Parents plead with us, ask us to suggest some good boys, so that nothing goes wrong. How can we guarantee the actions of a person, past, present or future?” he asks. What he wants to say but can’t is that he runs a marriage bureau, not a detective agency.
The mother of a girl at the bureau office, overhearing him, says: “Yahan jo kuch ho gaya, uske baad darr to lagta hee hai (After what happened here, it’s natural to be afraid).”
What she wants to say but can’t is that Imtiyaz would have been “good marriage material” before the blasts.