“Oppression and discrimination suffered by the low caste groups and Dalits at the hands of the dominant caste groups in Haryana and Rajasthan is reproduced within the families bringing in wives from other parts of India.
“The brides are ‘needed’ solely for their ability to perform free reproductive and productive labour. They are also preferred over local women as the loosening of natal family connections renders them vulnerable to domination and abuse.
“In the last decade and a half, the male marriage squeeze in the prosperous north Indian provinces such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh has led to men from these States paying money to marry women, usually from under-developed or economically marginalised regions of eastern India.
“They are segregated, isolated and shunned primarily because of their ‘unknown’ caste status, though the families overtly insist otherwise. Furthermore, the caste-based exclusion and humiliation is experienced both in the public arena and the private space of the family, according to a study ‘Tied in a Knot–cross-region marriages in Haryana and Rajasthan, Implications for Gender Rights and Gender Relations,’ funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy. [...]
“Caste discrimination is further amplified by deep racism against women and their natal communities. They are all pejoratively called ‘Biharan,’ a term that implies poverty, desperation, filth and savagery. Their parents and natal communities are branded as ‘thieves,’ ‘sellers of daughters’ and ‘primitive savages.’ The repeated denigration is internalised by the brides, and this leads to lowering of their self-esteem and self-worth. As a survival strategy, they minimise their social contact with others, with a negative impact on their mental health.
“Most cross-region brides are victims of colourism (darker pigmentation of their skin). Dark skin leads to their rejection in the local marriage market, making them more likely to be offered for long-distance alliance, resulting in dislocation from their culture, community and family. Apart from casteist and racist slurs, these brides are considered, and often taunted as ugly and dull in intelligence, because of their dark skin, the study suggests.
“Shortage of women is not common across all caste groups, but is endemic among the dominant caste groups of Jats, Ahirs and Yadavs. While the well-off from these groups are able to marry locally, men who are underemployed, poor, those who have little land, suffer from some deformity, are less educated or are old are the ones who most often seek cross-region brides. This practice, however, is slowly spreading to some lower caste groups and Muslim communities
“Such marriages are non-customary as the women come from different ethnicity, region and, sometimes, even religion. Families of these brides are extremely poor, often in the Below Poverty Line category, with little or no land assets and seasonal low-paying agricultural work. Inability to meet the exorbitant dowry demands made by local grooms forces them into long-distance alliances. This is the main reason why they opt for ‘dowry-free, no wedding expenses’ offers made by Haryanvi or Rajasthani men. [...]
“Children of such unions face similar racial taunts from their peers and are not accepted as one of their own. The insults range from sidelining in games or bullying with name-calling. Such incidents are high in Rohtak district of Haryana and the Alwar region of Rajasthan. Some older male children have faced difficulty in finding local girls because of their mother’s ‘questionable’ caste identity.”