Illegal bride bazaar still thriving in Old City


HYDERABAD: Contrary to popular perception, the age-old bride bazaar continues to flourish on the back of a well-oiled network of brokers in the poverty-stricken parts of the Old City, with Muslim women increasingly falling victims to the trade. Activists say that till date, thousands of young women have been married off to cash-rich foreign nationals and the lives of many more are at stake.

Activists say that the so-called husbands, hailing not just from West Asia but from African nations like Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, buy brides for a paltry sum, use them as sex slaves for a fortnight or a month in hotels and lodges and then fly back solo to their countries. “A girl once sold and abandoned loses her right to a dignified life. Most families that benefited from them shy away from supporting them as do the police,” says Jameela Nishat, who runs the Shaheen Resource Centre for Women in the Sultan Shahi area of Old City.

Activists maintain that the ‘grooms’ subject the girls to unimaginable sexual abuse while ensuring they do not get pregnant. After some days, they label them as unchaste and dump them. There are several women, who after falling into the trap once, are forced to marry foreign nationals again as they are left with no other option to eke out a living. “There are several victims who became pimps but there are also others who have learnt some skills and are surviving on their earnings,” Nishat adds.

But the fate of many others, like the 15-year-old girl from Moghalpura who recently sought police protection after she was married off to a 45-year-old Sudanese national, is uncertain. Though she is currently lodged at a rescue home, activists say that in many cases the condition of the girls in state-run homes is no better.

It is the middlemen or pimps who make the most money in this trade. Mostly local men, they know the financial condition of families living in the bastis and lure them with gifts and money. After the deal is done, these brokers, who may also be autorickshaw drivers doubling up as brokers, take away 75 per cent of the money and give the smaller share to the parents.

Mazher Hussain of the Confederation of Voluntary Associations (COVA) maintains that these sham marriages are nothing but a form of trafficking with the sanction of parents. “Some elements are misusing the religious sanction of nikah,” he says.

Activists say that while Muslim Personal Law board states that a Muslim can marry more than one woman, the clause that you do justice to all of them is conveniently overlooked.

Activists say that currently, areas like Vattepally, Golconda, Kalapather, Babanagar, Tadbun, Talabkutta, Shaheennagar and Barkas are the hotbeds for the trade. However, Hussain says that initially, marriages involving Arabs used to happen in Barkas which was inhabited mainly by the Chaush community who are the direct descendants of the Hadhrami Arab military men and bodyguards hailing from the Hadhramaut region of the then South Arabia, now part of the Republic of Yemen. “It used to be a marriage between relatives but it took a different form over the years,” he adds.

But now, says Rafia Nausheen, an activist working with the NGO Mahita, girls are being treated as a burden and in poor families, the priority is to get rid of them at the earliest. “If proposals where there are no demands from the groom’s side come, they fall into the trap,” she says and adds,

“After the marriage is finalised, girls are not allowed to step out of their houses and so not many cases come out in the open prior to the wedding. For instance, a young girl who went to Dubai as a maid was forcibly married and sexually harassed. She was about to be sold off to another man when she ran away and managed to come back to Hyderabad.”

Activists say that the so-called husbands, hailing not just from Middle East but from African nations such as Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, buy brides for a paltry sum, use them as sex slaves for a fortnight or a month in hotels and lodges and then fly back solo to their countries

    HYDERABAD: "Arab Shiekh marries poor Indian girl",
    "Arab marries, and then ditches teenage Hyderabadi
    girl", "Arab Sheikhs marry young Indian girls and
    flee", "Parents marry off daughter to Arab for money"
    - The headlines aren't from decades old newspapers.
    But, before you start putting stress on your grey
    cells to find out in which era such inhuman acts
    happened, let's make clear that this is a 'harsh
    present day reality'.
    Yes, in today's era also Arab Shiekhs marry poor
    Indian girls paying a paltry sum, live with them for a
    short while, and then, go back to their countries,
    abandoning the girls. And, in Hyderabad, also known as
    the City of Nawabs, the practice has become very
    common, with marriage becoming a trade and woman a
    The auspicious ceremony now has a customer, a broker
    and a seller. The Arab Sheikhs come to India and fix
    up with a broker, who in turn finds a girl, fixes her
    price with her father, and finally after tying the
    knot lives with her for a few days and goes back to
    his country. The tragedy is that few parents have
    learnt the lesson.
    In a recent case that came to light, an impoverished
    Muslim family married off their daughter to an Arab
    Sheikh for a meagre amount of Rs. 5000, offered
    through a broker.
    "He gave Rs. 5000, but it was all taken by the broker.
    My mother didn't get anything. I married him wilfully,
    even though he was 50 years old," said a girl. Her
    dreams are all shattered as she has been abandoned by
    Earlier, Arabs used to take their brides back with
    them, but that stopped when the Gulf nations
    restricted their citizens from bringing home a foreign
    bride unless they took prior permission from the
    authorities. As a result, instances of Arabs flocking
    to Hyderabad for a young bride continue.
    Social activists, however, say that the socio-economic
    conditions of the Muslim community of Hyderabad, are
    forcing poor parents to marry off their daughters to
    unknown Sheikhs.
    While bachelors of the city demand dowry from the
    girl's parents, adding to their plight, Arabs offer
    them money in return. This leaves parents with little
    "In our country young men don't marry poor girls, as
    their parents can't offer them dowry. So a girl's
    father finds it really difficult to find a suitable
    match for his daughter - a match who won't demand
    dowry," said Nadir Almasdoosi, a social activist.
    The Qazis, who perform the marriages, said that they
    are not responsible for such marriages, because both
    parties give their consent on the 'Nikahnama' before
    the 'Nikah'.
    "When both the parties are ready, they inform the
    Qazi, and the Qazi is not responsible for anything
    after the Nikah." said Chief Qazi, Shariyath Panah.
    In that case the Qazi could say, "Jab Miyan biwi razi,
    to kya karega Qazi".
    But the main problem arises, when the Arabs, some of
    whom already have one or more wives, flee and the
    girls are left helpless, and their parents burdened
    But despite all this, poor families continue to get
    their daughters married to rich Arabs.

    rab bride for fortnight

    – Sheikhs look for child partners for fixed term in Hyderabad

    Hyderabad, Oct. 23: Arab sheikhs seeking child brides from Hyderabad no longer whisk them away to the Gulf.

    They now marry them for a fixed term — sometimes as short as 15 days — during which they co-habit with the girls at their parents’ homes or city hotels, police say. Then they fly back home alone.

    Some of the abandoned girls are sold to brothels, here or in Mumbai, by Hyderabad’s army of marriage brokers, social activists allege.

    The entire arrangement sometimes costs a sheikh as little as Rs 75,000, the police said after arresting two men from Sharjah and an alleged broker this month, and detaining the parents of the prospective child brides.

    According to activists and the police, the “fixed-term matrimony” racket began in the past few years after the Gulf countries banned their citizens from bringing home minor foreign brides.

    It’s all done with the consent of the parents, who keep half the money while the rest goes to the marriage brokers, said social activist Jameela Niswhat. The brokers, she said, use a portion of the money to pay off the police, politicians, travel agents, hotel owners and fake qazis who are part of the racket.

    Police sources said at least 38 contract marriages had taken place in Hyderabad between mid-September and mid-October, “taking advantage of the Telangana agitation that kept the police busy”. Social activists claim that local police are often paid off.

    Sometimes, however, a dispute over payment bursts into the open, as one did on October 11, leading to the arrests. Officers said Sayeed Hilal Hamoodi, 46, and Mohd Sheikh Abdul, 51, had arrived a fortnight earlier seeking a bride each and contacted auto driver Abdul Aziz, who doubled as a marriage broker.

    Aziz took them to the home of Mahmood Miyan who had married one daughter off to an Arab a few months ago and was ready to do so with another. However, a noisy quarrel broke out when the broker and the parents demanded Rs 75,000 while the prospective groom refused to pay more than Rs 50,000. Suspicious neighbours called the police.

    Officers said this was Hamoodi’s fourth trip to Hyderabad and that he had earlier married three minor girls for fixed periods, the last time being in June this year. Some Muslim leaders, though, accuse the media of making a mountain out of a molehill and defaming the community.

    Since the 1970s, Hyderabad has been a happy hunting ground for Gulf Arabs seeking young, virgin brides. The lid came off the racket in the early 1990s when an alert air hostess rescued a weeping pre-teen, Ameena, from her 60-year-old Arab husband on a flight out of Hyderabad.

    In the Gulf, too, atrocities on the girls by their husbands hit the headlines and attracted international condemnation, prompting the ban on minor foreign brides.



    The persistent poverty among Muslims in urban India

    Unlike Muslims in rural areas, a disproportionately large number of Muslims in urban India experience abject poverty. While incidence of poverty has declined for all religious groups in India, urban Muslims have experienced a relatively slower decline in poverty than others.


    Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim in aWorld Bank’s policy research working paper released earlier in December argue that “poverty has declined steadily in all states and for all social and religious groups” in India *. In fact, a sharper decline in poverty was observed for periods of rapid economic growth in 2004-05 and 2009-10.

    Economic growth has helped reduce poverty in India. The challenge now is to spread the benefits of growth evenly over the diverse Indian socio-cultural and economic fabric. The poverty landscape in India is spread unevenly across the States and amongst the social and ethnic groups. Poverty has not declined at the same pace for some religious groups, including Muslims. At the same time, the decline in poverty for scheduled castes and tribes has been faster than that for non-scheduled castes.

    Panagariya and Mukim estimated the poverty rates for the 17 largest states in India. They generated separate estimates for urban and rural populations and further disaggregated their estimates for socio-economic and religious groups. They wanted to determine if the economic growth had helped reduce poverty in India. Furthermore, they wanted to ascertain if the benefits of growth were evenly distributed among the major socio-religious groups in India.

    The scheduled castes and tribes have a much higher incidence of poverty than the rest in India. Consider rural India where incidence of poverty among the scheduled tribes at 30.5 per cnet in 2009-10 was almost two times that of the non-scheduled castes. At the same time, since 1983 poverty declined at a lower rate of 53 per cent for the rural scheduled castes and tribes than others.


    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714
    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714


    Poverty amongst Indian Muslims

    While India is a multi-religious, multicultural society, still Hindus comprise an overwhelming majority of 82 per cent of the population. Indian Muslims account for 12.8 per cent of the population, whereas Christians are 2.3 per cent and Sikhs are 1.7 per cent of the population. Almost 34 per cent of the 133 million Indian Muslims live in urban areas with a higher rate of urbanisation than the Hindus.

    The incidence of poverty amongst Muslims in India is higher than Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs. Furthermore, Muslims in urban India experience a much higher incidence of poverty than others. The incidence of poverty in rural India is almost the same for Muslims and Hindus where nearly one in five in each community lives below the poverty line. The difference, however, is more pronounced in urban areas. Almost 34 per cent of all Muslims in urban India were below the poverty line compared to 19 per cent of Hindus. And whereas poverty for Hindus in urban India declined by 52 per cent between 1983 and 2009-10, the rate of decline for urban Muslims was much slower at 39 per cent.


    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714
    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714


    With the exception of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, Muslims experienced a higher rate of poverty in 2009-10 than Hindus in the remaining States in the sample.

    Purveyors of the Gujarat Model beware

    The State-wide breakdown of poverty for various religious groups paints a revealing picture that challenges several myths that have dominated the development discourse in India. The conventional wisdom on economic development, as is portrayed by the BJP and its sympathisers, projects the BJP-led Gujarat as the model for economic development. The statistics, however, paint a very different picture.

    In 2009-10, incidence of poverty for Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat was almost twice as that for Kerala, which is a socially progressive state in India known for its secular and socialist policies. Almost 38 per cent of Muslims were below the poverty line in Gujarat compared to 22 per cent of Hindus. And whereas the poverty amongst Hindus in Gujarat declined by 74 per cent during 1993-94 and 2009-10, Muslims in Gujarat experienced a decline in poverty of mere 11 per cnet. For the same time period, poverty amongst Muslims in Kerala declined by 61 per cent. In fact, incidence of poverty amongst Muslims in Gujarat increased between 2004-05 and 2009-10.


    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714
    Source: Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. World Bank’s policy research working paper # 6714


    The debate about defining the poverty line has largely been an academic exercise amongst economists. The matter is far from settled in India and other developing nations where economists continue to debate over who is poor. In the meanwhile, the most insightful definition of the poverty line comes from Ashok Mishra who wrote the screenplay for the Bollywood film Well done Abba!. Ashok explains the intricacies of the poverty line through the eyes of the poor. The lead character in the movie, Armaan Ali (played by Boman Irani), is a Muslim and if he were to be below the poverty line, he’d qualify for a subsidized well to be dug on his property under the Kapildhara scheme. To establish his poverty bonafides Armaan Ali explains to a government official that he begins each month above the poverty line, but as the days pass and he pays bills and other dues, he falls below the poverty line.

    The causes of persistently higher poverty rates among Muslims and other minorities in urban India need to be further explored. Why religious and other minorities have experienced a slower decline in poverty is a question that should concern Indian planners. The reasons behind such anomalies could be more complex than one would assume. Consider that a large proportion of the educated middle-class of urban Muslims in India left for Pakistan in 1947. The inter-generational effects of losing the educated middle class could take several decades to mitigate.

    The post-1990 economic growth in India and China has lifted hundreds of millions out of abject poverty. The Panagariya-Mukim paper offers further evidence for growth induced reduction in poverty in India. The bigger challenge for Indian planners and decision-makers is to find ways for a more even distribution of benefits of economic growth and prosperity.

    • A comprehensive analysis of poverty in India by Arvind Panagariya and Megha Mukim. The World Bank. Policy Research Working Paper # 6714. December 2013. Wahington, DC.

    31% Muslims live below poverty line: NCAER survey

    NEW DELHI: Nearly one third of Muslims in the nation survive on less than Rs 550 a month, economic think tank NCAER said, amid the ongoing debate on reservations in jobs and educational institutions for those belonging to the community. 

    A survey by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) said that three out of every 10 Muslims were below poverty line and lived on less than Rs 550 a month in the year 2004-05. 

    Even among the poor, urban Muslims were better off compared to those in villages, who survived on Rs 338 a month during the year under review, NCAER said last week. 

    Muslims poorest among religious groups, says NSSO survey


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    Muslims have the lowest living standard with the average per capita expenditure of just Rs. 32.66 a day, says a study by the an National Sample Survey Organisation. File photo
    APMuslims have the lowest living standard with the average per capita expenditure of just Rs. 32.66 a day, says a study by the an National Sample Survey Organisation. File photo

    Muslims’ average per capita spending a day is Rs. 32.66, while it is Rs. 37.50 for Hindus, Rs. 51. 43 for Christians and Rs. 55.30 for Sikhs

    Among various religious groups, Muslims have the lowest living standard with the average per capita expenditure of just Rs. 32.66 in a day, says a government survey.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the Sikh community enjoys a much better lifestyle as the average per capita spending among them is Rs. 55.30 per day, while the same for Hindus is Rs. 37.50. For Christians it is Rs. 51.43.

    “At all-India level, the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of a Sikh household was Rs. 1,659 while that for a Muslim household was Rs. 980 in 2009-10,” said a study titled “Employment and Unemployment Situation Among Major Religious Groups in India” by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

    The average household MPCE is a proxy for income and reflects the living standard of a family.

    According to the study, the average MPCE for Hindus and Christians were Rs. 1,125 and Rs. 1,543, respectively.

    The survey said that average monthly per capita consumption at all-India level was Rs. 901 in villages and Rs. 1,773 in cities. Overall, the average MPCE was Rs. 1,128.

    Muslims were at the bottom in rural areas, with an average MPCE of Rs. 833, followed by Hindus at Rs. 888, Christians at Rs. 1,296 and Sikhs Rs. 1,498.

    In urban areas, Muslims’ average MPCE was also the lowest at Rs. 1,272 followed by Hindus at Rs. 1,797, Christians Rs. 2,053 and Sikhs at Rs. 2,180.

    Keywords: Nati


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