NEW DELHI: “I was married in 2014 at the peak of my career to my uncle’s younger brother-in-law (saala) who is a US citizen, currently residing in UAE. I did not know he was already married for 10 years and also had a kid. When I criticised, I was locked in a room for 3 days and was tortured through electric shocks”, revealed Zuby Zaidi, founding member of Truth Still Alive Foundation.

The deafening pain in her voice drowned the entire conference hall into palpable silence. There were other victims of NRI fraudulent marriages participating in the National Conference on ‘NRI Fraud Marriages Issue and to get relief for Abandoned wives’ on June 30, 2019.

Many of these victims had travelled from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Mumbai and even Chennai. Few even came with their kids and elderly parents.

Today, Zaidi has pursued her law career, not only to seek justice for her cause, but to also fight for the anonymous drowned voices of hundreds of other Indian women, who face the same curse.

Even though Non-bailable warrant was issued against the bridegroom Syed Ali Murtaza in 2015, no concrete action was taken. The court ordered Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the appearance of the bridegroom and his parents for the legal proceedings. It never happened.

‘A red corner notice was also issued by the Ministry of External Affairs against the in-laws but they were pardoned on the basis of their senior-citizenship’, Zaidi told the Citizen.

‘I’ve met Rajnath Singh. He talks very sweetly but does not work. My file is lying down in some government cupboard for years.’

‘There is a severe problem in even the implementation of Article 498(a) in cases of domestic violence as we cannot secure the presence of NRI husbands in the Indian courts. There is no strong law to bring them back’, explained Adovcate Aman Usman, Chairperson of Truth Still Alive Foundation.

‘When women file an FIR, they are harassed by the local police officers who put numerable allegations on the victim. An abandoned wife is a pariah, a taboo. 70% of the cases are dissolved due to system’s apathy. In many cases, the NRI wants a child to be born in the foreign country, which would then later help him to acquire citizenship. After this modus operando is achieved, the wife is abandoned’, revealed Amarjeet Singh, the President of Truth Still Alive Foundation.

In such cases, the aggressive support of women organisations is clearly needed. But the absence of Rekha Sharma, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) in the conference spoke in itself.

‘We are just a coordinating agency. We do not have direct power. Parliament needs to pass the act’, opined Praveen Singh, who was representing NCW.

Fraudulent NRI marriages are also cases of rape, torture, human trafficking, violence and extortion. From September 2009 to November 2011, 796 cases have been registered in the NCW.

But not a single NRI husband has been extradited back to India till now.

‘It is the malfunctioning of the judges and not the system which is leading to such dire consequences in fraudulent NRI marriages. The Model Contract of SC/ST commissions needs to be implemented. The government should keep a watch on the number of NRI marriages taking place in India through monitoring cells. Victim should choose the lawyer for her case and the government should pay. This would decrease nepotism’, suggested Mahmoud Mahmood Paracha, Advocate at Supreme Court.

Out of the 44 cases of NRI fraudulent marriages received by The Citizen, the following patterns were scrutinised.

Firstly, at least 65% of these fraudulent NRI husbands are residing in US. Even though a Look Out Circular (LOC) has been issued, their passports have not been impounded, as the charge sheets remains under process. In 100% of these cases, there’s no response from the husband to the legal proceedings, at all.

Secondly, in cases of Haritha Kola Pabbati, Jasmeet Kaur, Seema Singh and Cynthia Partheeban, where a kid is also involved, the matters grow even more treacherous as child rights are also ignored, vehemently.

Thirdly, most of these NRI husbands are settled in US, UK, Australia, Canada and Singapore. There is ample evidence about them, like their names, passport numbers, address and contact information, but yet extraditing them remains an issue.

‘I have come all the way from Chennai with my kid and mom to ask for justice’, spoke Cynthia. An FIR was lodged against her husband, who resides in Singapore, in 2017. Legal proceedings behind the façade of ‘Indian Divorce Act’ are in process, with no justice in sight.

The inferno faced by rural brides who were victim of fraudulent NRI marriages is even more exasperating. The corruption within the police system continues, unquestioned.

‘I was married in 2016. Rs 5 lakh was given in dowry. The in-laws extracted Rs 50,000 for passport for my dependent visa, as the husband worked in Italy’, explained Sunita Rani, a 34-year-old victim from Haryana.

In the cases of educated women, the ignominy faced is at two levels. Firstly, women themselves are being abused for their luxurious dreams of finding an NRI husband in the first place. Secondly, the fees of lawyers are more than Rs 2 lakhs, making it difficult for many to procure defence.

‘My daughter is a bank employee. She pays her taxes. Then why is she considered a liability by the Indian state?’ questioned an elderly father, almost breaking down.

The bureaucratic hurdles, lack of strong extradition laws and victim shaming continue to jeopardise the futures of hundreds of Indian women. Recently, a 32-year-old victim from Bihar attempted suicide.

The lack of concern, legal hearing and unprofessional attitude within lawyers, police officers and government officials makes it impossible to get justice, making it a lost cause.

‘We will be starting a protest after 90 days, outside the Parliament. We are no invisible, we are alive. We deserve justice’, proclaimed Zaidi, who continues to be an inspiration for other victims.