Shafiq R Khan


A town of break up

One woman in every fourth house of Bharat Ganj, 57 km from Bhopal (Madhy pradesh) district headquarters, is a divorcee. Situated around Manda state, this village has a population of about 15000, 70% of which consists of Muslims. The interesting part of the whole story is that the divorcee women are very young and most of them are of less than 25 years of age. Illiteracy and severe poverty lead them to be married off between the ages of 6 to 15 years. They become mothers by the age of 16-17. Symbolically, there is a girls college in Bharat Ganj but people care very little to send their daughters to the college. Most of these girls make Beedis and earn few bucks for their livelihood, we can say that they are poor and not from well social condition but most of the boys are neither working nor studying. they just move around. Of course there is traditional gender discrimination. and hesitation regarding education.

Bharat Ganj is not the only village with divorcee women. Adjacent villages like Darupur, Sootra, Mohalla, Nai Basti and Kadi Chivhati also has the same ratio of divorcee women. Unaware of debates and laws on divorce, these women accept the divorce as a part of their lives. Most of these women are into Beedi making and clothe printing. It is obvious that there are a small number of women who moved to the court of law, fighting their battle with in-laws, but majority of them has accepted it as their fate and kept quiet. There are not any governmental or non-governmental institutions that can able to provide family counseling or handle with family dispute. I met some NGO workers but they don’t have any knowledge of Muslim personal law. A worker of local NGO says that “they are leading their lives according to the quraan. and we can not interfere in their religion.
It is clear that the NGOs treat them differently as if they do not come under the law of state.

Sabir, a meat seller of Bharat Ganj, finds it inconsolable whenever he talks about his daughter. He is the first man to raise his voice against the atrocities done to his daughter by her in-laws and approached government departments. His case was talked about in the newspapers as well. One of his four daughters, Sakeena was married to a Bharat Ganj resident Ajaz alias Doctor in 1991. Ajaz owns a tailoring shop in the local market. Immediately after the marriage, dowry was being asked. Ajaz was asking Rs. 50,000 in cash or a colour TV and motor cycle.

Sabir could not fulfill Ajaz’s demands and Sakeena came back. Later, it is only after the mediation of the Police, Sakeena could move back to her in-laws. Within a month’s time, she was given electric shocks and beaten before throwing out of the house.

Ajaz’s family has not returned anything to Sakeena what was given to them as dowry. Police also supported Ajaz. Sabir approached everyone, from local MLA to the city Kotwaal, but they were not appropriate authority for that case so nothing happened. But Sabir is adamant to fight this battle for his daughter. This time the matter is in court.

Ajaz said that he doesn't want to either divorce her nor does he wish to leave or marry again. He say according to Islamic law, Ajaz can marry four times without leaving his first wife. But it is impossible for Sakeena to marry again before formally getting divorced by Ajaz. But he is unaware about khula (divorce taken by women) concept of Islamic law.
Two young women’s life from Katra is a living hell. Akhtar Hussain's two daughters aging 34 and 31 are a picture of despair today. His elder daughter was married in 1985 when she was only 13 while the younger one was married in 1987. But both of them did not step in their in-law's house ever. Strange instances of divorce have come to the fore. There are instances where girls’ families have forced their spouse to divorce. For example, Haidarun was married to Hasnain Khan. Haidarun’s family wanted to marry her in some other family but a formal divorce was necessary. One day, when Hasnain was going on a bicycle, he was stopped and tied up by Haidarun’s family and a forceful divorce was signed. Bakadallah from Gadiwan Mohalla, Ramazan from Loharan Mohalla and Matak of Bazar, are just a few fathers who are suffering from the pain of their daughters. Hopelessness is written on all their faces.

On the one hand we see a patriarchal society, while on the other hand there are people like Sabir who are not only fighting a battle of her own daughter but encouraging others as well. Divorce immediately after marriage has become fashionable in Yamuna Nagar. Divorcee women only have an option of working as a labour to survive. In such a situation, the future of these women and their children looks bleak.
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