Shafiq R Khan

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Molki Women: is it Marriage....... ?


Traditionally, the women of Haryana possess an image of a total cultivator housewife who could be easily seen, in the fields or on the way to home from the fields maintaining a long parda (veil) loaded with the fodder for the cattle or grain! Or can easily be found preparing chilum (earthen vessel holding fire on the top of Hubble- bubble) for the hukka (hubble-bubble)!

However, on the other hand the traditional image of the prosperous males of Haryana is – a stout- bodied macho having a tall and wide physic bubbling hukka and alongwithbandukdi’, ‘jeepadi’ and ‘botadi’ (gun, jeep and wine bottle respectively)! However, recently the “molki” (purchased) women also have been added in this image.

The words ‘Paro’( from across) or ‘molki’( purchased) not only make realize the strangeness and the state of being alien but also decide the social status of the women who are called by these words.

In order to understand the social status of “Paro”, a detailed study was undertaken with focus on marriage, social acceptance, decision making roles in family etc.

The condition of the women has been always pitiable in the history of this region. There has never been any ownership or authority upon the lands or other paternal properties by the women so, the government in the recent years, has given an exemption of 4% on the registration to encourage the registration of land in the names of the women and after this process now the women are being able to get the authority over the movable or the immovable properties.

Social and Familial Point of View:

The sanscritisation process, though, build up a gradual pressure on society to give up traditions like Karewa (sexual relations of more than one male with single women). However, the society responded with yet another alternative “Paro” or “Molki”. Therefore though Karewa apparently seems to be vanishing yet it continues to exist in the form of “Paro”.

Marriage:

The marriages in which brides are purchased are not accepted as normal marriages. Majority of the stakeholders and panchayat representatives did not accept these marriages. They compare this type of marriage as a ‘jugaad’ (arrangement). Very few of the respondents accepted it as marriage.

There was a mix response from the representatives of “Khap Panchayat” ((federal clan council of the jats and other kindred people of upper doab, Haryana and neighboring areas). Out of the 6 representatives from the ‘khaap’ panchayats or caste panchayat, 2 of them said that it was not a marriage and 3 of them refused to answer.

Most of the secondary respondents held responsible the lewdness of males and involvement of agents for the continuance of the practice of bringing “Paro” or “Molki”.

As per the informations collected through secondary sources and informal interactions, it was remarkable that the prosperous and socially dignified families totally reject the authenticity of this type of marriages.These families generally have a narrow vision towards the families who bring “molki” girls and consider them as socially unrecognised and backward.

The information collected from the secondary sources and other key persons, it could be inferred that, the system of bringing Paro/Molki evolved as an alternative to Karewa.

After a long process of sanscritzation, the awakened and the literates wanted to uproot the exploitative traditions like “karewa” or “Paro” and they withdrew their support. This lead to the generation of social dilemma and conflict.

Therefore,with an intent to avoid any kind of disturbance to the current dynamics of sanscritisation and condition of clash with the newly rich strong-headed, the process was veiled and left unchecked. This social conflict dragged the molki women, in more vulnerable condition. As the elderly people say, earlier molki women had some social security howsoever but now the situation has been changed and these girls are themselves held responsible as the root cause of this problem.


Social Acceptance of Paro:

To understand the social acceptance of Molki women, responses of panchayat members and other stake holders were taken into consideration.

There are majority of the panchayat members (73%) and other stakeholders (72%) said that these women are not socially accepted. According to them importation of girls is responsible for the irrelevancies coming into the society. They consider the molki women as “inappropriate” and “adverse” in the social structure and local culture. Besides, they also held these women responsible for the crisis in social character and disintegration of families. And therefore instead of providing respect and rights they boycott these women.

It is therefore obvious that, there is always an opposite stand by the Privileged section of the society.

In their informal interviews most of the secondary sources respondents divulged the crude fact that, “molki” is only a medium to satisfy the sexual needs of males. But they also accepted it as an alternative for the ‘saata’ system.

Participation of Paro in Local customs:

It can be inferred that ‘Paro’ or molki women hardly participate in local customs. 71% of the molki women flatly denied their participation in the local functions or festivals. Their participation is confined to the family. Around 29% of the imported women constitute the category which participates. The social acceptance and recognition of Paro in larger society can easily be understood from the above data.

The major problem of the molki women is that they have no right to property in their owner’s property. Obviously, their condition becomes pitiable after their owners death. First of all they are sold and transferred in some other’s hands and if not sold then their family denies accepting them and there is no social pressure to fulfill the basic needs of these women. Actually, looking at the whole perspective it becomes clear that their image is nothing more than a sex toy.

Molki women and the family participation:

In general, marriage is considered as fusion of cultures of the two families and the society. However, mostly the girls adopt the cultures of the groom’s family, yet they have some right and there is inevitable entry of the girls’ culture. But in case of molki women, there is no evidence of mixing of culture in the families in which they are brought. They are aliens and thus do not dare to introduce any of their cultures. This somewhere indicates the submission of molki women in the family.

To study the status of molki women within family, the decision making role of Paro/Molki, in the family matters was studied. 76% of molki women accepted that they did not interfere in any of the family matters. Only 24% molki enjoyed family rights. It was commonly observed that these 24% women belonged to nuclear families.

In this context, a Molki named Ratna, in Kurukshetra stated the stark reality of the status of molki women within family. As she said, a molki is imported as cheap labour in the fields and for sexual pleasure of men at home. They are used as commodities and have no right to raise their voice or interfere in any kind of family matter. They fear the inhuman treatment by the family members. She added that they are called as molki or paro in family and do not possess any respect.

According to Ratna, the women in general, have minimal interference in family matters, thus molki women, who are in complete exploitative life conditions cannot even imagine availing any such right.

During field visits it was commonly seen that women usually leave their children back home, and go to work in the fields. Their relationship with child is limited to feeding. Both, mother and child are devoid of the rights to care and be cared and nurtured. Majority of the Molki accepted it in informal interactions.

Important information revealed during field visit was that, within family where they are apparently declared as wives, actually they never get equal status. Rather they are viewed suspiciously and never relied upon. This fact was substantiated during FGD, as one of the key persons said that these women run away with the valuables of the family, thus the valuables are kept away from these women and that the families always keep an eye on them.

Besides, it was also accepted by some of the family members that, with an intension to decrease the chances of flying away, they keep the valuables (ornaments, cash etc) away from the molki women.

Despite the commitment and devotion of molki women, they have to face discriminations as compared to other women of the family.

The overall findings from the study reveal the fact that life of molki women is highly exploitative, as they remain in servititude of the families in which they are ‘married’ off. To some extent, the molki women who are in nuclear families enjoy independence within the family, yet not in society at large.

Responding to the food habits, most of the molki women said that they could not maintain their original food habits.

As the researchers observed, most of the molki women belong to the regions where rice is common food, however in Haryana it is rarely served. Besides, most of the families are vegetarian in Haryana, thus the girls having non vegetarian food habit ( esp. West Bengal) have to compromise compulsorily and get accustomed to the local food habit and way of clothing

When mentioned about one of the common recipe ‘Panta Bhaat’ (a preparation of rice mixed with water) Kavita, from Medinipur (West Bengal), got delighted, but regretted that it is an era that she had rice. As she says the community is vegetarian and thus never allows eating fish or any non-vegetarian food.

She sadly mentioned that the girls are married to such distant places with a hope that there will be no problem of food, cloth and shelter, but in reality they are subject to all kind of physical and mental exploitation and compelled to leave their original food habit, language and dressing style.

While very few of the respondents said that they could manage to eat food according to their likings. Researchers observed that these respondents were either from the nuclear families; with the passage of time they have gained control on family resources. There are instances where families lured by money and other support, force “Paro” to maintain sexual relationships with the influential people and the dominant farmers of the village. In this way the molki women become the means of income and to some extent gain control over resources.

A paro named Mamta Ghosh, ultimately reached in the village Dhanora Jatan of Kurukshetra after being sold not once or twice, but in 6 times. She tells that “every molki is kept like an animal; it doesn’t matter from where she belongs. Changing their pegs from one to another keeping its expression as “marriage”, their work is to satisfy the sexual thirst of the husband’s friends or their owners”. This and many other cases demonstrate the real picture of status of paro within family.

During focused group discussions with panchayat representatives and key persons, many of the group members said that bringing brides from different regions are a part of acculturation process. However, in reality it is another form of exploitation and commodification of girls. It is only the ‘molki’ who have no other option than to accommodate and adopt the language, food habit and other customs of the family in which they are brought in.

The Way in which ‘Paro’/ “Molki” is addressed in family or society

Majority of molki women told that they are addressed according to their respective regions viz. Bangalan or Biharan. During field visits and group discussions quite frequently people used the terms ‘Biharan’, ‘Bangalan’ or ‘Molki’/Paro. However there were instances of changing names by the family in which they are brought in. Before the girls are brought to the destination areas their names are changed and they are addressed by their changed names.

Registration in Ration Cards and Voter list:

Most of panchayat representatives and 56 out of 70 molki women said that they are not registered in local ration card or voter list. From the responses of Panchayat representatives and the molki women, it can be clearly inferred that molki women are not accepted as permanent member of the families and are thus denied of any of the rights that a family member deserves.

During FGD and in-depth interviews, another important aspect surfaced up. It was observed that, the molki/Paro women are not only the victim of the wrath of the males but also are prey to the personal and social anxieties of the local women.

The local women have themselves lived an exploitative life conditions and have undergone various family compulsions and therefore, impose same compulsions on Molki/Paro women.

Despite the fact that because of these molki/Paro women, the other women of the family gain a higher status, they too make sarcastic comments on the molki women. Besides the families which have molki women, there the other women get rid of majority of the households. The situation is even worse if the molki is in landless or afflicted man’s house. She is the main person responsible for the livelihood of the family. She has to cultivate, cook and nurture the whole family

During in-depth interview one of the Molki women Narmata,(Bishanpura, Jind sadar) mentioned that, her so called husband is drunkard and abuses her regularly. During her pregnancy she was brutally beaten up by the family members including her mother in law and sister-in-law. She mentioned that her husband wants her to sell her, and her ‘Jethani’ (wife of elder brother) and mother in law gave all support.

However, though it was exceptionally found, yet it was true that researchers met Narmta in the house of another ‘Paro’/Molki, who was herself brought 30 yrs back to the same village. But as she mentioned, her in laws where quite supportive. As she is widow now and alone, she assured of extending her best support to Narmata.

The prolong suppression and the mental trauma faced by molki women, leaves no other option than to accept the servitude or to leave the family for a better alternative.



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