AN ARTICLE I CAME ACROSS TODAY... shocking state of the Motherland..are we regressing back to Mahabharat days of the Kaurvas and Pandvas... Jarnail Singh; _______________________________________________________ Modern-day 'Pandavas' share common wife in rural Punjab From Ravi S. Jha (Our correspondent) 4 August 2005 NEW DELHI — This is not a story inspired from the epic Mahabharata where five Pandava brothers settled for a common wife, Draupadi. This is a shocking tale of rural women in Punjab, where fragmentation of land holdings in the agrarian class and the falling number of female to male ratio has led to a bizarre social trend — one wife being shared among several brothers. Fraternal polyandry may have been in practice during primeval times among Tiyans of Kerala, tribesmen of Tibet, but in 21st Century Punjab the trend has found a new meaning, a social acceptability among the farmers, known for alarmingly high cases of female infanticide. The female to male ratio in Punjab is at 793 girls to 1,000 boys. More than half-a-dozen brothers marry a single woman in order to prevent division of their landed property that is common to their family. But many at the federal headquarters suggest such a trend is also because fewer Sikh women are available in rural areas of Punjab for matrimony these days. Though lately there have been few cases of men tying the knot with women 'bought' from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Jathedars (village religious leaders) have disapproved this custom of men marrying outside the community saying it would result in 'sub-standard' descendants. National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women have taken note of the practice as they believe that women are subjected to ordeal not by choice but by sheer social compulsion. In many cases, women have been forced to have relationship with husband's brothers against their wishes. Authorities blame adverse socio-economic conditions for the rise in such a trend. There are reports of a steady increase in the number of 'ageing unwed men' in rural areas of Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Sangrur and Faridkot districts of Punjab. These men are 'unwed' in the government records, but share their brother's wife. To avoid divisions of property… There are two types of community among the cultivators in the state — one that has huge land holdings, own air-conditioned farmhouses with imported BMWs and Volkswagens in the countryside of Jalandhar or Ludhiana. The second one are those who have small land holdings or are landless labourers. Such farmers avoid divisions of their agriculture property. The best way to do this is to share a common wife. This practice confines them to stick to a joint relationship far removed from distinct familial responsibilities. It has been observed that the elder brother's wife takes care of the domestic needs of as many brothers. In some cases, a single woman is a wife of as many as eight brothers. "Such a woman carries several children and none of the children have identified father," said Chairperson of the National Commission for Women Dr Girija Vyas. "All brothers treat the children as their own. We are aghast to realise the mental and physical trauma that the woman may have been going through. It is criminal to see such a practice being followed in modern times. We do not favour such unusual practice in mainstream society today," she says. Surprising is the fact that even law cannot do much as these marriages are never solemnised appropriately. They draw no offence under the Hindu Marriage Act or the Indian Penal Code. Authorities say that it is difficult to check a practice that has such a wide acceptance. Rarely does a woman lodges a complaint. On the contrary they do not mind being part of such a custom. Officials assert that legally the woman is married to one of the brothers, which in most of the cases is the eldest one. Usually, the family is closely interweaved with the eldest brother exercising full authority. Within the village, community leaders and the family members, there is an understanding. While the government is geared to check the practice of female infanticide in, they have no answers to this trend, which is a blot on modern times.