POOR MUSLIM GIRLS IN HYDERABAD ARE CHEATED BY ARAB SHEIKHS… A SOCIAL PROBLEM Prof Dr Colonel ( retired) K Prabhakar Rao Poverty is very frightening indeed. It has no bounds and encircles all religions and communities. It has seriously affected communities irrespective of religions with respect to marriages of girls. In this respect the Muslim community in India has received greater attention by the media than others. Hyderabad as usual has been always in the news for adverse activities. This is probably due to the high strength of Muslims in the twin cities who are greatly concentrated in the old city which is their citadel. The Old city has been the nerve center for Muslims for the last many centuries and they are more concentrated in this walled city (Walls no more exist now although at some places dilapidated walls and fort gates are still there giving an antiquated look). Although there are rich Muslims in the old city, their strength is much less and poor families are sizeable and countless(1) Partition of India in 1947 has adversely affected Muslims who remained in India after voting for creation of Pakistan based on religion. An air of mistrust has developed between the communities and Muslims have withdrawn from the main stream. Police action on Hyderabad in 1948 added fuel to the fire. The ruling King Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur (Brave), Fatehjung (Victor of battles) Nizam ul mulk Asifjah 7 was deposed after the military operation (Called Police action) by Indian union forces in September 1948. Nizam tried his best to remain independent and toed the line of Pakistan. Kasim Razvi the self styled Field Marshal of Razakar (Volunteers) forces misled the Nizam and the ruler became the puppet in his hands and fully abetted their gruesome activities. The Razakars resorted to the most atrocious crimes on the Hindu population that can not be even penned. They killed, maimed, raped women in mass, burnt houses, looted houses and trains in Hyderabad state and the Nizam’s Government abetted and boosted his actions by using police and military troops. (2). Although Razakars were disbanded later after deposing the king, most of them merged in society while many were killed in action. The local Muslims suffered consequently from inferiority complexes in subsequent years and withdrew from society. Educationally they remained backward and education in Madrasa still remained the priority. Urdu had to be learnt to keep their identity and they kept away from modern education. (This is however changing of late).Most of the road side low paid jobs such as welders, Car dent repairers, painters, seat repair mechanics, lathe machine workshop owners, Mechanics, auto drivers, Tonga wallahs (Drivers of horse drawn two wheel carts in bye gone days), Car drivers, plumbers, tin smiths, tire and tube repairers, air inflators for car tires, lock smiths, Rickshaw ( Three wheel cycle carts) pullers, Cycle repairers, Motor cycle mechanics, petty hawkers, scrap dealers, Push car vendors comprise of Muslims who are very poor and uneducated. Added to the misery, multiple marriages as sanctioned by the holy text resulting in a high number of children (Family planning was never resorted to) complicated the social problem. The problem has become acute with no solution. As children grew, problems became more intensive and marrying them off became a night mare to the poor parents. The Muslim society in India has been also influenced by Hindu customs and practices due to their coexistence for centuries. The evil of the dowry system that plagues Hindu society has also influenced Islam in India and dowry system has also become part of Muslim society in India. This has become further burden to poor parents in Hyderabad. With the fall of Nizam, the air of superiority among them also vanished and stark naked truths dawned in front of them. The local minority leadership resorted to more of politicking with a view on vote bank and did less to reduce their suffering. Religious passions were stoked by them and divisions further widened in the city and state (3). Arab sheikhs from alien lands have surely exploited the situation and the middle men made money in the process. There are always sharks that make hay while the sun shines. The burden of getting the daughters married off forced the poor parents in to this direction and they fell prey to the lusty old shaggy Arabs who found the old city of Hyderabad as a golden mine for helpless girls. The prevailing dowry system in Muslim society has added to the woes and poor parents have become helpless. Instead of paying to the bride groom, the parents receive money in exchange for giving the girl in marriage. Some call it selling the girl for money. The entire process is well organized in Hyderabad and it is well entrenched in society. The needs and helplessness of the poor parents are known to the locals and middle men who make contact with parents and exploit them. The Sheikhs who arrive in the city stay in local hotels and hunt for girls and soon are contacted by the middle men and a deal is struck. Most of the time a paltry sum is paid to the parents and Nikah is arranged. The Kazi (The Muslim priest) conducts the marriage and documents are prepared. Many times the girl’s age is altered and fake documents showing legal/acceptable age are prepared. Thus they try to escape from law. Parents are happy that the girl is married off to a wealthy sheikh but tragedy awaits them soon. The old Sheikh fit to be a father or grand father to the girl consummates the marriage in some hotel and satisfies his lust. It is also not known how many of these old crooks from Arab lands suffer from HIV and other venereal ailments. In the darkness of night they probably pass on the ailments to the unsuspecting brides. There are instances when girls below 13 years are married off to Sheikhs as old as 70 years. However on documents age is shown correct as per provisions. Tragedy unveils on the families when they find that the Sheikh has disappeared all of a sudden leaving the girl to winds. In a recent case that came to light, an impoverished Muslim family married off their daughter to an Arab Sheikh for a meager amount of Rs. 5000 ( US $100), offered through a broker. “He gave Rs. 5000, but it was all taken by the broker. My mother didn’t get anything. I married him willfully, even though he was 50 years old,” said a girl. Her dreams are all shattered as she has been abandoned by him (4). There would be incidents when the girl becomes pregnant subsequently and there is no trace of the Sheikh who has vanished never to return. Earlier the sheikhs used to take the brides to their countries and invariably the girls suffered as maid servants and subjected to untold miseries, but that stopped when the Gulf nations restricted their citizens from bringing home a foreign bride unless they took prior permission from the authorities. As a result, instances of Arabs flocking to Hyderabad for a young bride continue. The abandoned girl becomes a further burden to the parents. Such incidents are innumerable and their state is pathetic. Police has been keeping watch in these developments. But the social problem could not be eradicated. Kazis who perform Nikha are escaping the law owing to the provisions of scriptures. This has been a serious social problem in the poor Muslim families in Hyderabad and this can be eradicated only by better education and social unpliftmnet of the poor and family planning that has been a taboo among Muslims. The provisions in the scriptures are misused by unscrupulous elements and poverty abetted by lust has resulted in the most difficult situation among poor Muslims in the state. Although wide publicity was given to such incidents in the past the situation has not improved and the girls continue to suffer mocking at the society.