Anti-dowry drive: Thousands of Indian Muslims return millions to bride families

Manoj Chaurasia

Published: Updated:

A man in India has launched a massive campaign against dowry, one of the biggest social evils claiming hundreds of lives every year in the country. Such is the impact of the campaign that close to 1,000 Muslim families have now returned dowry to the bride families, expressing regret over their conduct in public and vowing not to repeat it in future.

The credit to this unique campaign straightway goes to Haji Mumtaz Ali who has launched the campaign in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. The success of the campaign is underlined from the fact that villages after villages are joining it every day, openly taking an oath not to accept dowry in future.

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Initially, the campaign was started in Palamu district but now it has gone beyond its boundary and spread to several others districts as well. But what’s further fascinating about it is that the campaign is not limited to any particular community only as the Hindus too have lent a wholehearted support to this campaign, joining the anti-dowry rallies in large numbers.

“I am happy to inform you that what started as a silent campaign against this social evil two years back has now turned out to be the mass movement. Now it’s not limited to any particular area or the community only but Hindus too are joining us in large numbers,” said Ali who happens to be the brainchild of the campaign.

Rs 60 million returned

The peak of the campaign was when the Muslim villagers began returning dowries years after they had taken them at the time of their son’s wedding. According to Ali, close to 1,000 Muslim families have returned dowries worth Rs 60 million to the brides’ families so far, impressed by his appeals to give up dowry.

One of them was Nizamuddin Ansari who returned Rs 40,000 to the bride families. “I regret about taking dowry from my daughter-in-law’s families but feel proud to return it now,” Ansari told an anti-dowry meeting held in Palamu recently.

However, the campaign didn’t reach at this level all of a sudden. Ali had to work hard, day and nights for months during which he held more than 100 such meetings and rallies in entire Palamu division to convince his community members not to take dowry, braving sweltering heat and chilling winter.

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But what compelled him to launch the campaign? “I saw many families getting destroyed under the impact of dowry although it was not initially prevalent in Muslim families. I came across many poor families selling their ancestral properties or taking loans on high interest to arrange money to solemnize wedding of their daughters”.

“What was terrible this money was being wasted on arranging decoration, DJ, orchestra and various types of dishes; it was not being used for important works! So I decided to launch a campaign in the society, sooner the better,” Ali said, in a telephonic interview on Thursday.

“I was aware of the economic status of my co-villagers. I knew their financial background just wouldn’t permit them for lavish wedding. They were doing so just because they had taken dowry from the brides’ families. So it was necessary to alert them,” he said.

Crowds of villagers

Eventually, Ali launched the campaign in April 2016 but got encouraged to focus on it after seeing huge crowds of villagers attending his each rally and meeting.

“I told the Muslim villagers to fear from the almighty and swear in the name of Allah not to take dowry in future and this ultimately clicked,” Ali revealed, describing his campaign as a “huge success”. Recently, Ali was honored by Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das for his campaign against dowry.

Ali is happy to tell that villagers are now opting for “dowry-less” marriages. “Now, the general masses have taken over my campaign. This indicates the success of my campaign, Ali remarked, with his voice exhibiting satisfaction and delight.

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Dowry has been claimed hundreds of lives every year in India. As per an official report, a total of 24,771 dowry deaths were reported in India in between 2012 and 2014 with Uttar Pradesh taking the lead with a maximum of 7,048 deaths. This information was given to the Lok Sabha in a written reply by federal minister for Women and Child Development Ministry Maneka Gandhi in April 2016.

The minister further told the House that India recorded 348,000 cases of cruelty by husband or his relatives during this period with the West Bengal topping the chart with 61,259 such cases, followed by Rajasthan (44,3111) and Andhra Pradesh (34,835), as per the National Crime Records Bureau data.