A lanky man in his 30s, Haji Khan is a resident of Old Hyderabad, who makes a living by scouring the streets for child brides for old men, who come visiting from the Gulf states. In return, he demands about Rs 10,000 ($150) for each “bride”
Khan used to deal in two kinds of ‘packages’ – one is known as pucca while the other one is known as ‘time pass’. The former one is a longtime marriage where the girl will fly to the Gulf state with her husband. In the latter one, the “marriage” lasts only during the man’s stay in India.
Khan, who is now a police informer, said:
We lined up 20 to 30 girls for each Arab in a hotel and he would select one. They (the men) gave the rejected girls 200 rupees ($3) to go back home.Advertisement
The men came with old, used bridal clothes, soaps and nightgowns for the girl they would marry. Most marriages were ‘time pass’.
It maybe recalled that police only recently busted a child marriage racket, which involved wealthy men from Gulf states such as Oman and Dubai “marrying” teenage Muslim girls in Hyderabad for the duration of their stay in India.
The marriages would be based on contracts – the divorce documents would be signed by the husbands before marriages, which would be delivered to their wives right after he left for his own country. The marriages were performed by qazis, who forged the bride’s age to show her as an adult. The main qazi who performed these marriages in Hyderabad was also arrested last month.
According to V. Satyanarayana, a deputy commissioner of police in Hyderabad investigating the case:
Most of the girls do not know that they will be abandoned within 15 or 20 days of the marriage. The men would come on tourist visas, perform a contract marriage and leave after a month.
The women, who would be “fortunate” enough to accompany the husbands to the Gulf states, were not necessarily fortunate. In most cases, they would be dragged into either domestic servitude or sexual slavery.
About 30 people, including brokers, qazis, hotel owners and prospective bridegrooms from Oman and Qatar were arrested last month and charged with human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors. This crackdown also saw 14 girls, all under 18 years of age, being rescued just before their “marriages”.
According to Satyanarayana:
Contract marriages in this part of Hyderabad have been going on for many years, but it has now become an organised, international trade (of girls), involving agents and qazis from different Indian cities and also the Gulf.
The marriages are mostly held right after Eid, as it is depicted as “season time” by agents, as most Arab men come down to visit Hyderabad during that time of the year.
The Arab’s association with Hyderabad dates back to the 19th century, when the Nizam of Hyderabad would recruit mostly Arab men as soldiers.
The young Indian girls, mostly from poor backgrounds, would be easy to lure into “permanent” marriages as they harbor high dreams when it comes to visiting foreign nations, reports Satyanarayana. He said:
They think they will see the Burj Khalifa (Dubai’s landmark skyscraper) and live in palatial homes like Atlantis (hotel) if they marry an Arab. They are ignorant of the consequences.
Not just permanent marriages, minors from poorer sections of the society are also quite easy to lure. After growing up amid much hardship, a chance to get married to a rich person is no less than a dream come true to for many innocent girls.
One such girl recently told Reuters:
I was 14 and our neighbour told us that a rich Arab boy was looking for a bride. We went to meet him. He was not a boy. He was 62. The broker convinced me that my life would change if I married him. I was promised gold, money and a house for my parents. I believed him.
She was married off in a no-frill ceremony, after which the girl’s mother was paid Rs 30,00. The brokers and the qazi was paid Rs 50,000 for performing what was a second such marriage for the man in a period of five days!
The people running this racket did sell the brides in “package” deals, which would be upwards of Rs 30,000. The cost of the packages would generally depend on duration. The packages included paperwork for the marriage, such as visa formalities if the bride was flying with her husband, or a hotel booking if it was a short-term stay.
According to Qadir Ali, a fourth generation qazi from Hyderabad:
They are rich men from the Gulf and they know people are poor in Hyderabad, and girls available. Since they cannot touch a woman outside of marriage, they marry the girl and sign a blank paper for divorce at the time of marriage.
They are spoiling the name of Islam for their desire.