number of Indian American husbands claim to be victims of an
Indian law against dowry that has them vulnerable to exploitation
- both financial and emotional - by their wives and in-laws.
is also reflected in support groups and blogs - ‘Batteredhusband’
and ‘Indianbakra’ - in the US, meant for male victims of the
law is being misused, say some husbands, while others allege
extortion or vindictiveness by wives and their families when
it comes to child support or custody.
apparently get harassed when their estranged wives go to India,
at times illegally with the children, and file criminal cases
against their ex-husbands with police.
are vulnerable, agreed a social rights activist here. Not
only do they face demands for thousands of dollars to withdraw
harassment cases filed against them but are also coerced to
give US visas to the wives’ families, he added.
to activists, there has been a dramatic rise in misuse of
the law, with cases reported from the US, Britain and Canada.
of cases against Indian Americans has been significant enough
for the State Department to publish a travel warning: “A number
of US citizen men who have come to India to marry Indian nationals
have been arrested and charged with crimes related to dowry
extraction. Many of the charges stem from the US citizens’
inability to provide an immigrant visa to prospective spouses
to travel immediately to the US.
courts sometime order the US citizen to pay large sums of
money to his spouse in exchange for dismissal of the charges.
The courts normally confiscate the American passport and he
must remain in India until the case has been settled.”
of victims and their friends in the US set up www.498a.org
last year. Satya, 30, a victim-turned-volunteer and software
engineer in California - who gave only his first name - maintains
the site. The number of hits, he said, is an indication of
the extent of the problem.
alone we had 100,000 hits,” he said. “About 80 people from
the US have filled up a form on the site seeking advice. There
are 20 Canadian residents seeking help. We have had about
200 requests for help from the Delhi-Noida-Ghaziabad belt
(in India) alone.”
victim, Rajeev Mehta, is an associate director of neonatology
and associate professor of pediatrics at the Robert Wood Johnson
University Hospital in New Brunswick.
1994, when the New Jersey-based physician met his now ex-wife,
Nalini Michelle Gupta, he was one of the highest paid academic
neonatologists in the US.
after we started living together. We got married in October
1994 because she was pregnant. Soon after the marriage, I
discovered that she had had numerous failed relationships.
I filed for a divorce when I realised that she and her family
were using me,” Mehta said.
more than three years of divorce litigation in the US and
having proved my case before the Superior Court of New Jersey,
I obtained a divorce. The court awarded me sole legal custody
of my children and determined that Nalini had been cruel towards
me, had destroyed my well-paid job in New York and had fabricated
a story of domestic violence to counter my divorce petition,”
that she was in serious trouble with US courts, Nalini decided
to run away to India. In order to carry out the abduction
of the children (aged 12 and nine), she claimed that her father
was on his deathbed in India and his last wish was to see
his grandchildren,” he said.
my ex-wife filed a false dowry case. For filing this case,
she lied and claimed that her parents had given us gifts worth
$12,000. She conveniently concealed the fact that ours was
not an arranged marriage and we had met and lived together
in the US prior to (marrying) solely because she was pregnant,”
his ex-wife’s abduction of his children, the US government
revoked Nalini’s passport. On July 12, Interpol issued an
alert for her, Mehta said.
in the Indian judicial system did not make it easier.
has written to US Congressmen and Indian politicians and spent
several thousands of dollars in legal fees. But he does not
see any “resolution in the near future".
are not even aware of the provisions of the law, activists
resident Bhavani Ramamurthy said: “In 2005 my brother’s wife
left Texas for India with their child following some disagreement.
Later I went to Chennai to attend my mother-in-law’s funeral.
the police came to our home and said my sister-in-law was
at the police station and wanted a reconciliation. When my
mother and I went to the station, we found my sister-in-law
officer turned abusive and took me and my mother into judicial
custody. Even though I told the police that neither my mother
nor I had ever lived with my sister-in-law, it did not help.
Both of us were taken into judicial custody for seven days.
The police also took my passport away,” she said.
said she and her relatives had to bribe the police to expedite
the legal process.
a lot of money at every stage. For them, we (from the US)
were like golden ducks. Till this happened, I did not even
know that such a law existed. What amazed me was that the
police did not question any of the statements my sister-in-law
to spend our days with petty criminals. The woman who made
false statements got away scot-free and was not even charged
with perjury. Everyone makes money. It is a form of legal
terrorism. I still get nightmares thinking of my experience.”