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Sikh News Abandoned Brides - Canada's Shame, India's Sorrow !

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Abandoned Brides: A Province Special Investigation
Canada's Shame India's Sorrow
Fabian DawsonThe Province
October 16, 2005


In Punjab's Doaba region everyone knows someone who is married to an Indo-Canadian.
It is also there that everyone knows someone whose marriage to an Indo-Canadian was a scam.

For the past two months a team from The Province and the Calgary Herald has been investigating the scandal of India's abandoned brides -- a phenomenon that is being likened to organized crime.

The numbers are staggering, the stories are tragic and the social stigma attached to the victims has led to thousands of women living in misery.
Our team comprised writer Valerie Fortney and photographer Ted Rhodes of The Calgary Herald, writer Michael Roberts and me from The Province.
We travelled to the heart of the problem in Punjab's rural villages to interview dozens of abandoned brides, some with children who have yet to see their Indo-Canadian fathers.

In many cases, an obsession to go abroad had made the women easy targets for greedy, heartless men.

In others, the daughters were essentially "sold" by parents hoping to follow them to Canada.

In most, the families said they had been financially ruined by their daughters' dowries -- an ancestral custom officially abolished but one that prevails in practice and is a sacred duty.

The extent of the social tragedy is reflected in official studies that say 30,000 women in India have been left behind by their overseas-based husbands, referred to as Non-Resident Indians.

Our team also visited bustling police stations, the marbled hallways of India's officialdom and the fortified Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to find out what was being done about this scourge.

We found no evidence of any co-ordinated crackdown.
Exasperated police, faced with hundreds of such cases, were resorting to a mix of threats and family counselling sessions to reunite couples or at least get some of the dowries back.

The Punjab state and Indian federal authorities, while acknowledging the problem, had commissioned study after study. All were gathering dust on bureaucratic shelves.

Canadian diplomats, well aware of the scams, were powerless to act.
Back in Canada, our team tracked down some of the alleged runaway grooms in B.C., Alberta and Ontario to hear their side.
Some were furious, some hid and some talked.

We met with members of the Indo-Canadian community, who provided valuable insight, lauded us for tackling the subject and reminded us that most weddings between Non-Resident Indians and Indian nationals are legitimate.

Our series, called "Abandoned Brides: Canada's Shame, India's Sorrow," begins today and runs through Thursday.

You will meet some of the victims and hear their stories. We will introduce you to people who are fighting on their behalf, community activists here who offer solutions and Sikh religious leaders who say the time has come to act.
We hope that our series, and your feedback, will make a change.
We would like to hear from you. Please e-mail mroberts@png.canwest.com or vfortney@theherald.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Last edited:
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Broken vows and shattered dreams
Each year, thousands of men from Canada, the United States and Europe return to India in search of a bride, promising to whisk them away
Valerie Fortney; With Files From Michael Roberts, the Province.Calgary Herald
Sunday, October 16, 2005

Her name means "beautiful girl" in Punjabi. Yet for Rupinder Kaur Chahal, her life feels anything but. The shy 25-year-old resident of Deenashabib, a plain village in the Moga district of India's Punjab state, says her life is over before it's even begun.

"I have nothing to hope for, nothing to do," the graceful young woman whispers as she lowers her head, tears dropping on to her baby blue salwar kameez, also known as a "Punjab suit."

Sitting in the dusty courtyard outside her family's humble stone house, an emaciated cow grazing in a stall next to the room where she and four other relatives sleep, Rupinder explains the source of her misery. A newlywed, she hasn't seen her husband, a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) living in Calgary, for 19 months.

"He promised he would come for me in three months," she says. "Now he is saying it will take seven years to get me into Canada."

Rupinder's story is an all-too-common one in the Punjab, the northern Indian agricultural state bordering on Pakistan that is home to 24 million, two-thirds of them followers of the Sikh religion.

Each year, thousands of men --some new immigrants, many of them sons of 1960s immigrants to Canada, the United States and Europe -- return to the land of their ancestors in search of a bride.

Young Indian women are paired up with NRIs, the couples finding one another through village matchmakers, relatives and the full-page matrimonial ads found in every local newspaper.

Once a suitable match is found, they typically marry in India, the weddings grand events with often several hundred guests.

The majority of these young women are later brought to countries like Canada, the U.S. and Britain, where they start new lives and families of their own.

But in recent years, far too many of these young women -- a good number of them from Punjab state -- have been left behind, waiting months, even years, for their husbands to send for them.

Some never do, and these young brides, having given up their virginity and their dowries to a husband who then disappears, are treated as social pariahs. The children of these marriages also get their share of scorn, with many, especially in the smaller villages and rural areas, labelling them the progeny of an illegitimate union.

Their parents are often left near-penniless after selling off their land and liquidating much of their net worth to get cash and jewelry.

The long tradition of dowry in India, in which the bride's family is required to hand over a substantial amount of money and gifts as an offering to the groom -- often worth thousands of dollars, in a country where 47 per cent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day -- was outlawed in India in 1961.

But the under-the-table practice, many observers say, is even more popular today than in earlier times.

The family of Rupinder Kaur Chahal, the pretty 25-year-old who feels her life is over, now has no dowry to offer any other potential mate. Their daughter, living in a kind of marital limbo, has nowhere to turn. After a large wedding only months earlier, she's not supposed to still be here, in the home of her parents. Her continued presence in her village is a social stigma for both bride and her family.

Rupinder takes little solace in knowing she is one of thousands of Indian women in such a predicament.

The phenomenon of the abandoned bride, also referred to as the "runaway groom" or "holiday wife" syndrome, is becoming well known in India.
The stories are eerily similar: men come to India, get their dowry and bride, then return overseas a few days or weeks later, promising to send for their wives when they can.

But time passes with little or no word. Sometimes the men disappear without a trace; sometimes, they come back year after year, visiting their wives, fathering children, all the while promising one day they will bring them to the new country.

Several women interviewed for this story say they only learned of their husbands' true intentions when, a year or more after their wedding day, they received a divorce decree in the mail.

Daljit Kaur, a lawyer and feminist activist living in Punjab's largest city, Ludhiana, says a large proportion of the more than 200 cases filed with Punjab police have followed this pattern: "Typically, it takes about one year and then the NRI files for divorce on the grounds of a one-year separation."

Indian sources say the problem has reached epidemic proportions.
In the northern Indian state of Punjab alone, whose citizens often want to immigrate to wealthy countries like Canada, Balwant Singh Ramoowalia claims there are as many as 15,000 abandoned brides. Indian authorities place the total number of abandoned brides in India at up to 30,000.
"We did random calculations of 100 villages in one district alone," says Ramoowalia, president of Lok Bhalai, a Punjab state political party formed to fight for the rights of the disenfranchised.

"In every single village, there were three to four abandoned brides, " Ramoowalia says.

Other agencies back Ramoowalia's assertion, from law enforcement officials and legal experts to non-governmental organizations that focus on women's welfare. At a conference held in 2003 in Chandigarh, the capital for both Punjab and Haryana states, H.G.S. Dhaliwal, police superintendent in charge of the city's Woman and Child Care Unit, said Chandigarh itself had witnessed a 40 per cent increase in NRI marital fraud over the past few years.

The problem has also recently come to the attention of government officials, both at the state and national levels. Last year, India's federal External Affairs ministry commissioned and received a 71-page report on the issue from the Indian Society of International Law.

"The abandonment of brides by NRI grooms isn't new," says Lakshmi Jambholkar, a senior member of the society and one of the report's authors. "But it has become an enormous problem in recent years, especially in states like Punjab."

V.C. Govindaraj, the society's vice-president and the report's chief author, says the findings

correspond to what people like Ramoowalia are seeing first-hand.
"We did a field study, and had no trouble finding hundreds upon hundreds of cases."

Varinder Kumar is the senior superintendent of police for Fateghar Sahib, a town in the heart of Punjab. He estimates that of the thousands of NRI marriages that take place each year in his state, 40 per cent involve marital fraud.
"There are also cases of NRI girls defrauding boys," he says.
(In India, the terms "girls" and "boys" are used frequently to describe single people and newlyweds, regardless of age.)
But the difference, Kumar says, is that rarely is a dowry given by the boy's family, and "there is no social stigma for a boy who has been abandoned."

Why, an outsider might ask, are Indian parents so eager to marry their daughters off to complete strangers from a distant land?
Why do they put their trust and family fortune in the hands of these foreign men, many of whom have only a tenuous connection to India?
The answer is complex.

In a place as large, populous and diverse as India, it is said that for every sweeping statement made about the country, the opposite can also hold true. While millions of the country's more than one billion inhabitants live below the poverty line and nearly half the population is illiterate, there is also a thriving educated class, many of whom lead the world in fields such as information technology. It has 18 official languages, more than a thousand dialects and several religions (more than 80 per cent of India's population practises Hinduism).

The concept of a western-style love match may have caught on with a small segment of society, but the tradition of arranged marriage is still followed by at least 90 per cent of the population. Young women and men are expected to rely on parents and other relatives to choose their life partners.

While the passion of romantic love will fade, they reason, similar values and lifestyles are better indicators of longtime compatibility.
Divorce, once unheard of, is still less than five per cent (exact figures are not available, as thousands of marriages each year in India go unregistered), while in the U.S. it is 50 per cent and Canada is 45 per cent.

India's Punjab state has long provided Canada with a steady flow of immigrants: Of Canada's more than 500,000 Indo-Canadians, about 70 per cent are from the very cities and villages that people like Rupinder Kaur Chahal call home. Nearly every third person you meet here will tell you they have a relative living in Canada.

Over the past few years, the desire to emigrate to countries like Canada has only grown more fervent thanks to economic pressures on the region.
"The land here is getting less and less valuable," says Rajiv Ahir, senior supervisor of the Jagraon Police District in Punjab. "Less economic activity is a push factor. Families are looking for boys with a good job overseas, and the pressures make them resort to things a normal family wouldn't resort to."

These factors have combined to make those living in the Punjab particularly vulnerable to the growing problem of marital fraud.
In a June 13, 2004, article in the India Tribune, journalist Aruti Nayar noted the link between the state's migration history and the willingness to marry daughters off to NRIs.

"In more conservative social set-ups like Uttar Pradesh," writes Nayar, referring to a nearby state without a strong history of Canadian immigration, "girls would not be married off to distant shores without a thought."

Many of the young Canadian-based men returning today to marry Indian women are the sons of the first big wave in the 1960s of Indo-Canadian immigrants. In India, these men are held in the highest esteem because they hold a Canadian passport -- regardless of their station in life.
Finding young women to dazzle with the promise of life in the First World is easy.

Even Indian men who have only been in Canada a short time discover that their ability to sponsor a wife into their adopted homeland makes them a hot marriage prospect for young women in search of a better life.
Rupinder Kaur Chahal is typical of such starry-eyed young women.
Sitting outside her home on a
recent sweltering afternoon, a large electrical fan dispersing the heady aroma of cow dung patties burned for cooking, Rupinder becomes momentarily excited when asked about Canada. She readily admits she knows little about the country she pines for, that has been her lifelong dream to see.

"I heard you can work there, and can get better paid," she says with a rare flash of a bright, white smile. "That way, I can help my whole family."
On Feb. 18, 2004, it looked as though she might get her wish.
Before more than 500 people -- which included all the residents of Deenashabib, her village in the Moga district of Punjab -- she married Beant Singh Chahal, a Calgary-based NRI introduced to the family through a fellow worshipper at their local Sikh temple. The brother-in-law of Jagjit, Rupinder's mother, also knew the groom's family and vouched for him.
There was a bright, red flag, however, the bride's family chose to ignore. Five days before the wedding, the groom's family suddenly demanded a dowry, according to her father Gurdev Singh.

"They told us they got an offer of 9 lak rupees (approximately $26,000 Cdn) from another family to marry their daughter," he says as he shakes his head. "They said we would have to match it."

Turning to the village panchayat (advisory council), they were told to find the money so the wedding could proceed. "We'd already distributed the marriage announcements. They told us if we cancelled, people would forever say there is something wrong with the girl," says Gurdev.
The family, he says, borrowed money from a village lender, at a rate of 24 per cent interest, to pay the hefty dowry. The wedding cost the family an additional $3,000.

After the wedding, Rupinder, who has a Grade 10 education, moved in with her husband and his relatives in a nearby village. Two months later, he headed back to Canada.

"I was very happy with him. He was all the things you could want in a husband," she says with a faint smile. He was also a far sight older than 36, which the matchmaker claimed. In fact, at 52, he was one year older than her own father.

"He dyed his hair and beard for the wedding," says Gurdev, holding up a wedding photo of a man clearly well into middle age. He told Rupinder that after his adult son died, he divorced his wife of more than 30 years so he could have another son.

But more than a year after the marriage, he told Rupinder it would take seven years to bring her to Canada. According to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada department, the first review of a spousal visa application takes four months, on average, after receipt, with an interview usually scheduled within six months.

Today, the young woman's family is under siege. Their daughter, her virginity lost and her husband half a world away, is treated like a pariah in the village where she has lived all her life. Their daughter, they say, is now seen as "damaged goods," which makes her chances of marrying again slim at best. The prospect of becoming a divorcee -- her greatest fear -- in a country where it's almost non-existent only adds to the stigma.

Back in Calgary, her husband says he has a more than plausible explanation for what he feels is a simple misunderstanding. Only weeks after the wedding, he hurt his right arm in a car accident while still in India. Upon his return to Calgary, he found out his arm was infected. He required surgery to treat his injury and was out of work for nearly a year.
"I was under the impression I needed an income to bring my wife here," Beant Singh Chahal says from his daughter's living room in Calgary's Martindale area, where he has been living for the past year. He received the advice, he says, from a friend. He never bothered to inquire with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to verify his friend's claim; he would have been told his inability to work would not have impeded his spousal sponsorship application.

Beant has been back at work for several months, but only recently began the sponsorship process.

"I have good intentions," he says, producing a filled-out spousal sponsorship application as evidence. A bank receipt attached to the application is dated Sept. 10, 2005 -- approximately two hours after the Herald first approached him to request an interview for this story.
Beant, who arrived in Canada in 2001 after his daughter sponsored him and his wife, says Rupinder's despondency over wait times is another big misunderstanding.

"I told her it took that long to bring me to Canada," he says.
"I have not taken a single penny from them," says the maintenance worker at the Calgary International Airport. He claims he is estranged from his extended family in India, so it couldn't be possible that his relatives pressured them for more dowry just before the wedding. (Due to its illegality, there is rarely any paperwork involved in the exchange of dowry, so there is no documentation to back either party's claims.)
He says he, too, was duped by the matchmaker. "He told me Rupinder was 35 years old," says Beant, who adds his ex-wife "was fine" with the fact he decided to divorce her in order to have another son after their own son, 21-year-old Yadwinder, died in 2000 after what he describes as a medication mixup in India.

Beant says he has tried to call Rupinder to let her know the sponsorship is back on track, but cannot reach his wife.

"Please write, had I known I could have filed earlier, I would have," he says. "I do not have any bad intentions."

His wife's family -- still waiting to hear the good news about the processing of her sponsorship to Canada -- aren't quite ready to celebrate. The lenders, says Gurdev, are now pressing him for the return of the money; he has put up his 1.2 hectares of land, worth about $40,000 Cdn, for sale but can't find takers.

"Now that people know we are in need, no one will offer a fair price," says Rupinder's mother Jagjit. "We are on the verge of bankruptcy."
Despite their ordeal, they still hope their son-in-law will one day make good on his marriage vows.

"Our first choice is for him to fulfil his promise and take her to Canada," says Jagjit.
"But we don't have much hope."

While it may be difficult for a westerner to fathom why a young woman would want to be reunited with a husband who takes nearly two years to send for her, Rupinder's fellow citizens understand only too well.
"The saddest face of this, is that everyone wants to put the blame on the girls' side," says Punjab politician Ramoowalia. "Everyone asks, 'Why is her father marrying her to a foreigner?' From every side, the girl is finished."
Rajiv Ahir agrees. "She is neither married nor unmarried," he says. "This situation is a very serious social stigma for the girl and her family. She has not the respect of her community as a married woman."

The police superintendent has seen an explosion recently in complaints surrounding brides who have been abandoned. "I have been doing this job for 10 years, and I just started hearing about the problem about five years ago." He receives about 15 to 20 complaints a month now, a significant number when you take into account not only a tradition whereby many Indians regard going to the police as a last resort, but also the shame and secrecy that accompany such cases.
"In our culture, you don't go to court and make (your problems) public," says the law society's
Lakshmi Jambholkar.

The problem is getting so big, says Ahir, it is on the verge of becoming a major social problem in his region.

"I would compare it to the problem of drug abuse by young people," he says. "It is not just the girl being victimized, it is the whole family."
Still, the weddings go on week

after week in the marriage palaces that line the roadsides throughout Punjab. "It's not just the girls," says Ahir. "Everyone here has flowery, colourful images of Canada -- it's the proverbial El Dorado for them."
Navjit Kaur Sandhu's story is another aspect of the abandoned bride problem. She believes she was abandoned, but her husband says it was simply a case of a marriage that didn't work out.

Navjit, a 30-year-old high school teacher with a master's degree in information technology is not only much better educated than many of her peers, she's also quite a few years older -- the average age at marriage for Indian women is 19.

"I was waiting for the right
opportunity, the right match," says Navjit as she sits in the home of relatives in the town of Maradpur, 40 kilometres from her home in Aujla village.

She thought she had found that match in Jaswinder Singh Sandhu of Surrey, B.C., whom she met after posting her profile on an Internet matchmaking site. Her family checked his credentials with his neighbours in his home village and the pair married on April 27, with Navjit's family paying nearly $12,000 for the wedding (no dowry was given, although Navjit says, "He wanted us to give him something for a dowry, but we didn't").
After spending 10 days with his wife, Jaswinder returned to Canada, promising he'd soon begin the sponsorship application.

"Then there were no phone calls, nothing, no communication," she says. When Navjit reached her husband, she says he told her, "I'm not well. I have blisters in my mouth,
I can't speak."
A few months later, he did get in touch, but only to tell her he wanted a divorce. Navjit believes her husband, who was divorced in 2005 from Jagroop Sandhu, has returned to his ex-wife.
When approached at his parent's home in Surrey, Jaswinder calls the allegations against him "garbage."
"People make fake charges."
He confirms no dowry was exchanged. "I didn't take nothing, no dowry -- it didn't work out.
"Of course, I'm going to divorce her," he adds before slamming the door to the palatial home. "Who cares about it?"
Today, Navjit is a broken woman, convinced her life is ruined. She still wears her wedding bangles on her arms, because "I am ashamed that people will see that my husband has left me."
She has arranged to meet with the visiting journalists in a place other than her village, where she is treated as a scandalized woman.
Her neighbours, she says, blame her for the desertion, "because I took time to get educated and delayed marriage, and didn't follow the norms of our society."
The experience has also left her parents, Ramesh Kumar and Surjit Kaur, devastated. "We had a very good experience with our first daughter, who married an NRI from New York," says her father, Ramesh, who is being treated for depression. "We are unable to understand what we should do. . . .
I love my daughter very much."
Some abandoned brides are not willing to carry the role of victim. Some, like Kanwalpreet Kaur, are taking the bold step of trying to fight back.
The 40-year-old high school principal married her NRI husband in 1993 in a double-ceremony with her sister, Varinder, who married his older brother. Her sister went to Edmonton with her husband after the wedding, but Kanwalpreet was left behind. For years, her Edmonton-based husband promised to send for her, and for years, she waited. Even after divorcing her, he came back twice, promising to reconcile and carry through with his commitment. It's a promise he's never kept.
After a silence of more than a decade, she's determined not to keep quiet any longer. She's speaking out to the media, and is looking for ways to correct a wrong that has, she says, "ruined my life."
It is a sentiment heard time and again from not only the young women left behind, but also their parents.

"I wish my daughter had never been born," wails Rupinder Kaur Chahal's mother, 50-year-old Jagjit Kaur, as her daughter hangs her head in shame.
"I hope someone comes and bombs our house and we all die -- that will relieve us of our misery."

- Coming Monday: Kanwalpreet Kaur and other women fight back. But do they have any hope of justice?
Commonly Asked Questions
What is an NRI?
A non-resident Indian (NRI) is an
Indian citizen who has migrated to another country. Other terms with the same meaning are overseas

Indian and expatriate Indian. For tax and other official purposes, the
government of India considers any Indian national away from India for more than 180 days in a year an NRI. In common usage, this often includes Indian-born individuals who have taken the citizenship of other countries.

A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is literally, simply a person of Indian origin who is not a citizen of India. For the purposes of issuing a PIO Card, the Indian government considers anyone of Indian origins, up to four generations removed, to be a PIO.

There is a huge NRI and PIO population across the world, estimated at around 25 million.

What is a dowry?
A dowry is a gift of money or valuables given by the bride's family to that of the groom to permit their marriage. In societies where payment of dowry is common, unmarried women are seen to attract stigma and tarnish the household's reputation, so it is in the bride's family's interest to marry off their daughter as soon as she is eligible. In some areas where this is practised, the size of the dowry is directly proportional to the groom's social status, thus making it virtually impossible for lower-class women to marry into upper-class families. In some cases where a woman's family is too poor to afford any dowry whatsoever, she is either simply forbidden from ever marrying, or, at most, becomes a concubine to a richer man who can afford to support a large household.

The tradition of giving dowries is today perhaps most well-known in Asian countries; in India, the practice is still very common, especially in rural areas, despite being prohibited by law in 1961. However, dowries have been part of civil law in almost all countries, Europe included. Dowries were important social components of Roman marriages. Medieval Germans had the tradition of dowry and of Morgengab, both working to give a start in life to the young couple, as well as to secure the bride's future. This tradition was followed by most people in medieval and modern Europe, and only in the few recent centuries, the dowry and the Morgengab have disappeared from law in Europe.

Why are so many Sikh last names the same?
Sikhs as a community have adopted Singh (meaning lion) as a suffix to their names and that is often used just as any other last name would be. Sikh women use Kaur (meaning princess or lioness) as their last names. (The surname "Singh" predates the Sikh faith and is still a common one for upper-caste Kshatriyas -- both as "Singh" or the suffix
"-sinh." It is the same word that is in the name of Singapore, the country.)

These definitions are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html. It uses material from the following Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/) links:
Profile of Rupinder Kaur Chahal. Interview with Rupinder Kaur Chahal. This story features a factbox "Commonly Asked Questions".

© The Calgary Herald 2005
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Curbing dowries key to halting bride scam
Province series boosts efforts to halt practice
Mike Roberts, with files from Kuljeet Kaila in Amritsar and Hardip Johal in VancouverThe Province
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sikh leaders are urging Sikhs to stop offering dowries for their daughters following a Province/Calgary Herald series on abandoned brides.

And as the call went out from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Sikh faith's holiest shrine, three young Indian women who were interviewed as part of the series reported they have been threatened at their homes in Punjab.

"The mass-media attention outside of India, coupled with the alarming amounts of dowries being exchanged, has led to this outcry and appeal to the public to stop," said Jaswinder Singh Bedi of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which attends to the religious and political affairs of world Sikhism.

Bedi said the committee believes the appeal to Sikhs to refrain from hosting lavish weddings and to stop providing dowries will prevent dishonest Non-Resident Indians from seeking to defraud their Indian brides.

Bedi said the size of dowries in India has become "outrageous" and families are going bankrupt to pay them.

"It is really out of control and there needs to be a stop put to it," he said.
"Even those families who don't have the means of supplying large dowries will take loans of large sums, but when those debts can't be repaid, sometimes suicide has become the only solution. It's happening more and more."

He noted the Sikh religion does not condone dowries, which have "nothing to do with religious beliefs in Sikhism."

Balwant Sanghera, a representative of the Sikh Societies of the Lower Mainland, said the religious order is overdue.

"I hope this has some impact," he said. "It's about time that something like this happened."
Sanghera was disheartened to learn that women who came forward with their stories of betrayal and abandonment are now the victims of intimidation and violence.
"This is very scary," he said.

Indian police said yesterday they sent officers to the home of one of the women, Kiranpal Kaur, after her family compound was broken into by three armed men.
"My men are down there,"

V. Neerja, Senior Superintendent of Police for Moga District, told The Province. "The investigation continues."

Kaur, a 25-year-old teacher who was interviewed for the series at her village home, says she received a phone call Oct. 8, shortly after her husband's family in Delta was contacted for the series.

"The caller said, 'You've made trouble in Canada and we want to talk to you about it,'" she said.
"They asked to speak to me or my dad. They said, 'We want to see you,' but they didn't give us a contact number or address."

Two days later, shortly after midnight, the men entered the compound in the village of Charak.
"They jumped the gate and we yelled for help," Kaur said. "We were scared."
Her father, Surjeet Singh Gill, fired warning shots and the men fled.
"They ran to the road and fired back," said Kaur.

"I didn't see their faces. They just ran away, didn't say anything.
"We wonder what would have happened if we hadn't heard them coming, if we'd stayed asleep."
Her husband, Gurjeet Singh Parmar, whom Kaur married in 2002, returned to Canada six weeks later, promising to send her sponsorship papers.
Both sides say they are trying to work things out.
Parmar says he is making arrangements to sponsor his wife.
Kaur said she will not be deterred or intimidated: I deserve my rights. As long as I live, I will fight for my rights."

Another woman in the series, Rupinder Kaur, says she has received angry calls from Canada for releasing her wedding pictures.

Her husband, Beant Singh, has also called her to reiterate his willingness to bring her to Canada.
Another alleged victim says she received a threatening call from her husband who vowed to "teach her a lesson" for sharing their story with the media.

The Abandoned Brides series -- which looked at the plight of an estimated 30,000 young Indian women left to live in shame by their overseas husbands -- has provoked widespread reaction in the Indo-Canadian community, where it has dominated talk radio.

"The community really congratulates The Province," said Radio India host Sukhminder Singh Cheema, adding the "hot topic" has jammed the Surrey station's phone lines.
"Ninety-five per cent of callers really appreciate it and say it's a daring step and the people who are cheating and abusing the system should be exposed and punished," he said.


© The Vancouver Province 2005
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

At the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi, academics were tasked in 2003 with studying the issue for India's Ministry of External Affairs.
Their 71-page report on the problem of Non-Resident Indians bride-hunting in India recommended:

* Legislation to stop foreign courts from granting divorces between NRIs and Indian women married in India.
* Automatic recognition of Indian court orders by foreign courts.
* Background checks for incoming NRI bride-hunters.
* Enforced registration of all marriages between NRIs and Indian nationals.
* A global instrument for the recovery of spousal support and child maintenance.
* A separate government agency to deal with NRI matters.
* A broader set of bilateral extradition protocols between Canada and India, including extradition for bigamy.

"We want to limit the power of NRIs," says Prof. Lakshmi Jambholkar. "They cannot have two loyalties and they cannot take advantage of the women of India.
"The family courts in Canada, in the U.S. and elsewhere must be made aware of these problems."

Alas, says the law society's Prof. V.C. Govindraj, the Indian government has yet to act on the report.

"It is sitting on the shelf collecting dust. More than a year and a half now and nothing has happened," he told The Province.

Supreme Court Judge K. Sukumaran says: "We need legislation. Our legislators are in deep slumber. The years roll on; these women languish here."



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