by- Europa Doley *
The movie “Atrangi Re” directed by Anand L. Rai was one of the most anticipated movies of 2021, mainly because audiences were excited to watch Dhanush in his next big shot Bollywood movie starring opposite Sara Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar. While the story takes a weird take on love and a very serious mental health condition, it also uncovered the instances of forced marriages which is a recurring issue in the state of Bihar, although it didn’t actually address the issue since the movie is not primarily based on the said theme.
Another 2019 Bollywood movie “Jabriya Jodi” was based on the subject of such primitive practices but again failed to focus on it efficiently and instead maintained a boy-meet-girl love story through an extremely problematic male gaze.
Returning home after meeting his sister on the day of Raksha Bandhan in Bihar’s Munger district, a then 27-year old man Sambhu Yadav was abruptly kidnapped by unknown men and held bound overnight in an unknown location. The next day his faith saw him sat by a temple mandap: beside a woman dressed in bridal red and a relentless priest reciting marital hymns with three armed men overseeing the entirety of the ceremony. This reported incident took place in August 2019.
Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop such marriages from happening in the state of Bihar. According to reports, over a thousand such cases were registered in 38 districts of the state between the month of April and September 2020 amid the lockdown that was imposed all over the country because of the pandemic.
This practice of “Groom Kidnapping” is colloquially known as “Pakadwa Vivah”, popular in the Western districts of Bihar and the Eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh. According to Bihar’s State Crime Record Bureau, 10925 cases of forced marriages were recorded in 2019. This is just a mere number, the fear inflicted by the perpetrating gangs restrict the power to take to court. Pakaruah Vivah is highly prevalent among the upper castes of the society, where the demand for dowry is higher. The gangs thrive on such lucrative and low risk crimes, and ensure the marriage is duly performed and that the bride weds off to the in-laws’ home. Many such marriages have lasted, leaving no room for remorse or regret.
The dowry system still remains to be one unanimous reason for the practice. The lack of education and awareness in the state paired with the ever increasing birth rates in the 70s through to the early 90s led to persisting low economic wealth, which further boomed the inability to meet dowry demands and ensuing groom abductions. The bachelor victims of this conjugal abduction generally fall prey to families who cannot afford feudal dowries.
According to a 2010 article on the issue of such forced marriages, there were reports of 1,244 men being abducted in Bihar in that very year itself and forced to marry the daughters of the abductors. Amidst the higher number of dowry deaths in the state, the girls’ families finally resort to this extreme approach. Groom abduction has apparently received a social sanction in these regions and thus became a high-profit, low risk business for the goons hired to carry out the kidnappings as it passes off without any strict regulations and mostly unchecked. Depending on the depth of this issue, one might expect that it’s representation on media at least should aim to leave a social message about its impact on people involved in such practices but seems like Bollywood is on a different path, bringing up this issue of forced marriages happening in certain regions time and again, only to pass it off as a matter of joke.
Source – IMDb
Although Sushil Rajpal’s 2010 National Award winning film, Anterdwand, made an effort to show the depth of this subject by not only focussing on the plight of the captive groom involved in such marriages but also on the trauma that the bride who are forced to marry against their wishes, goes through. Inspired by a real-life incident of a man who was stuck in a court case for more than 28 years against the woman he was forced into marrying, Antardwand even depicts the legal loopholes cleverly. The story writer and director of the film worked on a difficult subject very beautifully while walking a tightrope between the groom and bride’s predicaments.
Author’s bio – Europa is an art enthusiast, an occasional reader and a musicophile. She’s doing her Master’s in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi and her interest revolves around the issues faced by marginalised communities. Currently, she is interning at kractivist.org