Kidnapped Grooms: When Indian Men are Forced to Marry

Kidnapped Grooms: When Indian Men are Forced to Marry

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018 - 06:45
Kidnapping grooms is a phenomenon that plagues some parts of India. (Reuters)
Patna, London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Cars with loudspeakers playing loud Indian pop songs fill the streets. Drummers and firecrackers add further jubilation to this scene, which is very common during the wedding season in Patna city, capital of the Indian Northern State of Bihar.

However, Vinod Kumar, a 29-year-old engineer does not feel comfortable at all because he was kidnapped and forced to get married.

Kumar, who was rescued by the police, said: “I want this marriage to be annulled.”

He called for punishing those who kidnapped and forced him to get married, reported the German News Agency (dpa).

Kumar arrived in Patna from neighboring Jharkhand state in early December to attend a friend's wedding. That same evening, under violent threats, he was forced to marry a woman he had never met, and fell victim to the so-called “kidnapped grooms” phenomenon.

In January 2017, while Kumar's father lay in a coma, a man called Surender introduced himself at the hospital as a family friend. Kumar kept in touch with the man after his father’s death. When Kumar was on his way to his friend’s wedding, he was invited to Surender’s house for tea.

Suddenly, the host forcibly tied Kumar with the help of several members of his family, took his cell phone and locked him in a room. "I asked him, what do you want from me? And he answered that I have to marry his sister." The “groom” added that his kidnappers, who were armed, beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not respond to their demands.

Kumar is one of about 3,400 grooms who were kidnapped last year in Bihar, a poor state with a population of more than 100 million, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported.

Police say they have no accurate statistics on the groom kidnappings cases, but confirmed that men in Bihar are often abducted and forced to marry.

"The problem was at its worst after an agricultural crisis in the 1980s," said Rubitch, head of local charity Kushish. At that time, sons of poor farmers began to go to school, receive their education and then get good jobs, which made them very desirable husbands. At the same time, families of young women were no longer able to afford the dowry, an amount paid by the bride's family to the groom to complete the marriage.

This practice has been banned in India since 1961, but it is still widespread. The marriage of sons and daughters is a matter of great importance to Indian families.

Some parents in the state of Bihar hire gangsters to kidnap grooms, or sometimes they do it themselves and the marriage takes place under gun threat.

Marriage often lasts, especially with the social pressures that consider it a "sacred bond" that is difficult to break.

While kidnappings are less common now, people like Kumar still face such a threat. Kumar was a "good prey" to the hijackers because of his job as a junior director of a state-owned steel company, and especially since the bride was over 40, and it was difficult to find her a groom.

Kumar appeared in a YouTube video, weeping as he was tied around his wedding rites, and his bride, who did not seem pleased, stood next to him. He was not talking to her.

"I would have felt the same if I was forced to marry a buffalo," he said.

He said that he spent the wedding night locked in the house and the kidnappers called his brother the next morning to inform him Kumar had gotten married voluntarily. His brother was suspicious and went to the police, who were complicit with the captors, according to his family. The police reportedly came to Surender’s house and declared that the groom should accept the marriage or be harmed.

Kumar said other policemen came to the house the following night and released him after his relatives and friends released details of the case on social media and local television.

Kumar fled, as there was no certificate that forces him to accept his marriage to that woman. The kidnappers, however, have not been brought to justice, and Surender continues to contact Kumar and threaten him, he says.

Kumar recently returned to Patna seeking justice from the Bihar State Commission for Human Rights. He said he was traumatized by the experience. Despite the kidnapping, Kumar said he is interested in marriage. "I want a natural marriage, arranged by my family.”

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