(Left) Ainul Haq sells samosas and tea; his daughter Bano Parveen, with her father-in-law Sattar Ansari. Prashant Pandey (Left) Ainul Haq sells samosas and tea; his daughter Bano Parveen, with her father-in-law Sattar Ansari. Prashant Pandey
The match had been fixed and so had the ‘deal’: Rs 70,000, plus a motorcycle for the groom. But in May 2016, four days before Bano Parveen, 20, of Tarwadih village, nearly 10 km from the district headquarters of Latehar in Jharkhand, was to get married to Mahfooz Ansari, a 25-year-old who worked as a welder in the nearby Ichak village, the local masjid and madarsa committee met at the groom’s village. The outcome of the meeting: the groom’s family had to return Rs 70,000 to Bano’s father Ainul Haq. “I used that money to buy utensils and almirahs for my daughter, besides a few other things,” says Haq, 45, adding that the marriage went ahead as planned and that the couple are “happily married”.
Haq’s story is now part of a movement within the Muslim community against dowry. It was Haji Mumtaj Ali, a handloom businessman from Pokhri Kalan village in Latehar district who began the ‘Mutaliba-e-Jahej-Va-Tilak-Roko Tehreek (movement against demand for dowry and tilak)’ on April 24, 2016, which has now spread to three districts of Jharkhand — Palamu, Garhwa and Latehar.
Sitting in his sprawling bungalow with some village elders, Ali talks of how he began his campaign. “A lot of villagers come to me for help, usually to ask for money to get their daughters married. That’s when I realised that dowry was a huge problem, though nobody spoke against it.”
He says that under Islamic tradition, giving or taking dowry is neither banned nor illegal. “What is illegal is the mutaliba or the demand. That is what we are working against,” explains Ali, while claiming that at least 700-odd Muslim families in these districts have returned dowry amounts worth around Rs 6 crore.
But as Haq would tell you, dowry takes on many forms, not all of it in wads of currency notes. While the groom’s family returned Rs 70,000, Haq says he did not ask for the motorcycle; “that is my gift to my son-in-law”.
In the end, Haq ended up spending over Rs 2.75 lakh on his daughter’s wedding: besides the Passion Pro motorcycle that cost him Rs 60,500, the food bill for around 100 guests ran up to Rs 30,000; tents, lighting and decorations for around Rs 17,000; furniture, including a sofa set, bed set, dressing table and other related items cost him Rs 50,000; and utensils and almirahs around Rs 40,000.
Haq, who makes a living selling samosas, balushahi and tea outside his mud house, says that in these parts, it’s not easy for a poor man to get his daughter married off. So, he asked for help. His elder brother, who works in a private factory in Surat, sponsored the bike. “I went to at least six relatives, asking them for money. Some gave Rs 10,000, others Rs 15,000 and so on,” says Haq, in between stirring a fresh lot of samosas. He says he is trying to repay the debt through monthly instalments ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, but still has Rs 1.2 lakh left to pay.
Haq’s father Usman Ansari, 65, says the family had no option but to spend that much, adding that “this is the going rate” in the area. “Sahab, 1 lakh aur motorcycle se neeche to baat shuru hi nahin hoti, aap kahin bhi chale jaiye (Sir, the negotiations begin at Rs 1 lakh-plus-motorcycle; wherever you go),” says Ansari.
Fifteen kilometres away, at Ichak village, Bano’s father-in-law Sattar Ansari is taking a round of his three-acre field. A former contractual driver with the Forest Department, Sattar says, “I had taken Rs 50,000 from Haq as dowry. Then, the day the committee came to our house, I got to know that my brother had taken another Rs 20,000 from Haq. I immediately agreed to return the amount. I welcome this campaign,” says Sattar, the father of five children, including two daughters.
When the committee asked him to return the money, he says he panicked. His eldest daughter, Imrana, who was expecting a child, had developed complications and had to be admitted to a private hospital in Daltonganj. “That cost me a lot of money. Besides, I had already bought clothes and jewellery with the money Haq gave me. But it was a matter of family honour. My brothers helped me arrange the sum and we returned it,” he says, adding that he is yet to repay his brothers.
One of his nephews reveals more. “The committee was adamant that we return the money. If we didn’t, they said the wedding would be boycotted. Our family honour was at stake. What choice did we have,” he says, refusing to identify himself.
Sattar claims the incident hasn’t led to any tension with his daughter-in-law — “Apni beti ki tarah rakhta hoon (I treat her like my daughter),” he says.
At the garage where he works as a welder, Sattar’s son Mahfooz doesn’t say much about the dowry, only asking if there was “some kind of inquiry” against him. He assures that there is no tension between him and Bano.
At their home, though, as Sattar summons Bano, the strain is evident. “Khus kya honge (What is there is to be happy)?” she says.
Sattar tries to laugh it off. “Aap is baat ko samajhiye. Woh apne ghar aa rahi thi. Aur apna ghar mein khushhaali sabko achchi lagti hai… maayke to ab wo kabhi kabhi jaayegi (Try and understand this. She was coming to her own home (her husband’s). And everybody wants one’s home to be prosperous… Now that she is married, she will go to her parents’ home only occasionally),” he says.
He then speaks about how “lucky” he was when his daughter Imrana got married two years ago. “I only gave Rs 20,000 plus a motorcycle. There was no demand from them. I gave this happily. In fact, after the committee took up the issue, my son-in-law offered to return the motorcycle. But I told him to keep it,” he says.
Back in Tarwadih village, Haq says that with four more daughters to be married, he hopes the anti-dowry campaign will continue. “Otherwise”, he says, “I will have to get my father to sell his 1.5 acres. Aur phir bhi nahin ho paaya to door kahin shaadi kar denge, jahan kam mein kaam ho jaaye (And even if that is not enough, then I will get my daughters married off to some far-off place, where I won’t have to pay too much),” says Haq.
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