8 Sheikhs from Middle East, Gulf were among 20 arrested in a 'contract marriage' racket in Hyderabad
- Brokers lure girls from poor families by showing them photos of good life
- One aspiring groom was 80 years old, the police said
- Another man sexually exploited 10 girls in the name of marriage
Eight Arab sheikhs - five from Oman and three from Qatar - one of them as old as 80, have been arrested by the Hyderabad police in one of the biggest crackdowns on the city's underground network of supplying 'wives' to suitors who can pay. Three Qazis, including a chief Qazi from Mumbai, were also arrested who arranged fake documents to send even underage girls out of the country.
Tajuddin Ahmed a senior police officer, said it was not just the wealthy who come looking for brides here. The brokers classify them as 'autowala', 'ambassador-wala' and 'innovawala' - the third being the category who stay in upmarket hotels, he said.
"An elderly man has come with his son and friend to get married. He came with a marriage certificate. What he wants is a servant who he can use for other purposes as well," he said.
The police say girls were literally paraded before Arab Sheiks, a rate was fixed for them and the Arab would pick and choose depending on what he wanted and how much he could pay. One aspiring groom was 80. Another called Abdullah had sexually exploited as many as 10 girls in the name of marriage.
Last month NDTV had reported how a 16-year-old girl from Hyderabad was lured into marrying a 61-year-old man from Oman. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi had responded to her call for rescue and promised to bring her back. An investigation by Hyderabad police on that case led to the unearthing of a huge 'bride bazaar' racket operating almost like a mafia network.
A mother whose daughter was trapped in such a marriage two years ago says the brokers should not be spared. They lure vulnerable girls from poor families by showing them photos of a good life, malls, homes, she said.
"No girl should be sent out of Hyderabad. I know a mother's anguish. My daughter suffered. Don't spare the brokers, they lure you and trap you. Please stop young girls being taken out like this," she said.
Her daughter says she returned after nine months of hell in Oman. The husband who had shown dreams of a comfortable life in Oman, himself had a hand-to-mouth existence in Oman, she says.
"What I suffered only I know. For nine months, I was kept virtually locked up, without even proper food. I fell ill. I was even made to beg," she said.
Mahender Reddy, Hyderabad police commissioner, said as much as policing, social awareness was also necessary. "These unfortunate victims, once they land in Gulf countries, were exploited not just by the husband but many other men," he said.
As many as 35 suspected brokers, agents, lodges have been brought under the radar. They will be geotagged to monitor their activities. Other suggestions include ensuring that the age gap between bride and groom is not more than 10 years, taking the permission of commissioner or Superintendent of Police before conducting such a marriage, after arriving armed with a clearance from their country.