of a good life in Britain, Satwant Kaur landed at Heathrow to
start her new life with her husband, far removed from her village
him waiting at the airport entrance. Visibly happy, he took
her suitcase and passport telling her to wait while he fetched
his car. He never returned. The distraught bride waited and
waited. In tears, she sought the help of some Sikh staff at
Heathrow. She had no idea of her husband’s address.
to go, the Sikhs took her to the nearest gurudwara at Southhall.
The community tried to locate her husband without success.
Then they re-applied for her passport, raised money for her
ticket and arranged for her to return home. For no fault of
hers, Satwant Kaur is abandoned.
just one of the 15,000 marriages of NRI grooms and Indian
brides that turned dreams into nightmares.
repeated tragedy: an NRI boy lands in Punjab, marries a local
girl, pockets the cash dowry and leaves for Britain - never
doing anything to get his wife over who waits in vain. Often,
these new brides find after their arrival in Britain, the
US or Canada that their husbands have already got a local
‘live in’ or a wife and children too.
they claim their parents forced them to marry an Indian hoping
he would give up his live-in partner or divorce his wife.
The anguished NRI widows and their furious parents suffer
with NRI marriage frauds. To address these problems, a workshop
was held recently by the Ministry of Overseas Indians, the
National Commission for Women (NCW) and NGOs in Chandigarh.
stories of NRI widows were related and a number of solutions
were discussed. Punjab has 15,000 such registered cases and
NRI husbands have abandoned an estimated 30,000 Indian women.
The workshop was shocked to learn that 1,200 women from Punjab
are living in shelters across Britain. The NRI marriage racket
also involves Indian grooms. Many young men see their marriage
with an NRI girl a passport to the good life abroad.
growing numbers of ‘passport weddings’ enjoin an Indian and
a NRI holding British, American and Canadian citizenships.
NCW chairperson Girija Vyas called for establishing women’s
cells in Indian embassies abroad to tackle the offences in
NRI weddings. She pointed out the need to enhance support
systems for women trapped in distress situations in alien
Department had long ago issued an advisory on US citizens
of Indian origin who came to India to marry but were charged
with crimes related to dowry. The Canadian embassy has also
citied a growing number of Indo-Canadians involved in martial
frauds and dowry abuse. The British high commission in India
has been dealing with such cases for a long time.
for Overseas Indian Affairs fully recognises the urgent need
to safeguard unsuspecting brides and their parents seeking
marriage alliances with overseas Indians. The ministry is
developing policies for gender and marriage issues; setting
up an advisory group and overseas Indian centres in the US,
the Gulf and Malaysia to provide legal, medical and social
counselling for victims of failed marriages besides a helpline.
has published a booklet on ‘Marriages to Overseas Indians’,
offering guidelines to avoid these matrimonial horrors. But
the publication has been roundly criticised in the NRI world,
especially the US. A spokesperson for the Save Indian Family
Movement in the US maintained that the booklet suggests that
NRIs are cruel, arrogant and frauds. Moreover, it only mentions
women’s rights but not any rights for men.
has committed itself to drafting comprehensive legislation
to tackle offences in NRI marriages by November. This will
be done after more regional workshops to be organised in Kerala,
Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi to cover the special circumstances
in these states.
laws will have teeth only if they can be enforced in foreign
countries of the spouses of NRI marriages - mainly Britain,
Canada and the US. So bilateral treaties need to be signed
with these countries.
meantime the marriages go on. A practical solution is for
the prospective Indian brides or grooms to make inquiries
about the martial status and bona fides of the spouses with
overseas Indian associations, cultural bodies, sports and
women’s clubs – if their database is publicised in India.
This way NRI leaders can turn the tide for brides like Satwant
From By Kul Bhushan (IANS) London, (A media consultant
to a UN Agency, Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a
newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He
lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at: email@example.com)