US Imperialism


WSF In India






Gujarat Pogrom






Contact Us


From Cradle To Grave

By Manas Dasgupta

Bsides cash and gold, the dowry includes cars, televisions, refrigerators and a house — whether or not the groom's family already possesses them is immaterial. And if the groom has a Government job, the dowry would include the bribe for a "good posting".

No one can beat the Patels of Gujarat at it. The extortion is lifelong; and continues even after death — a woman's parents have to pay for the religious ceremonies when she dies. This is the case with the Leuva Patels of Kaira and Anand districts of central Gujarat. Dowry is, however, not much prevalent among the Kadva Patels of the north. But it is common among the Anavil Brahmins of south Gujarat and the Rajputs in the Kutch-Saurashtra region.

Ila Pathak of the Ahmedabad Women's Action Group, a non-government organisation fighting for women's social rights, says that compared to many other States, complaints of "bride burning" or dowry harassment are uncommon in Gujarat. At least, they are not reported. But the number of "suicides" by married women under mysterious circumstances is enough reason to believe that they are not always accidental.

According to police records, the number of "dowry deaths" in the State under section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code was 94 in 1999 and 93 in 2000. The number declined to 43 in 2001 and by another 10 per cent last year. But experts point out that the decline is due to the refusal of the police to register cases.

The cases registered under Section 498 (A), most of which have to do with the inability of the bride to bring in hefty dowry, provide an insight into the dowry menace in the State. In 1999, their number was 3,886, 3,739 in 2000 and 3,191 in 2001. Some cases ended in "suicide'' — "accidental death" in police parlance — but not all. Taking into account 1,774 "suicide" cases in 1999, which "came down" to 1,632 in 2001, and 3,378 "accidental deaths" in 1999, which declined to 2,750 in 2001, it is evident that the problem of dowry continues to haunt women. And it is certainly no coincidence that nearly 80 per cent of the suicide cases and accidental deaths occurred in kitchens and the daughters-in-law were the only victims.

Ms. Pathak says that education and prosperity have only increased the practice of dowry. The better the groom's educational qualification, the heftier is the dowry to make up for the "expense" incurred on his education. And prosperity has given rise to demands for costlier things. In fact, affluence is responsible for the system, she argues. The Leuva Patels, the Anavil Brahmins and the Rajputs, who are all rich land-owners, started the practice of giving riches to their daughters during marriage which slowly became a custom among all. Dowry system seems to be prevalent among a section of Muslims too, though the Shariat proscribes it. They prefer to call it "voluntary" contributions from the bride's side though. However, among tribals, the dowry system works in the reverse direction — the groom's family shells out money.