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Dowry is a Curse

Dowry is a Curse

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Published by Suvidutt Sundaram

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Published by: Suvidutt Sundaram on Nov 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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This article was originally written for the Super Brain All India Essay Competitionconducted by the competitive monthly magazine named 
Competition Success Review
and won the
second prize
The best of the marriages is one which is least burdensome in the financial sense to the families of the bride and the groom
”. – Prophet Mohamed.THE BEGINNING
Ours is a sacred soil where women are venerated as
; where there are morewomen deities in our pantheon than male divinities; where Jhansi Rani, Indira Gandhiand Laxmi took birth and icon of maternity like Mother Theresa dwelt. Nevertheless,wife burning owing to curse of dowry – that atrocious species of murder horrendouslyescalate in many parts of India pre and post independence days despite legislation againstit, and giving a chance to evolve as a part of a social custom.Historically dowry had a legitimate rationale. It was given to a daughter to enableher to support herself independently in her husband’s home without making demands onher new family. It was supposed to provide for her pocket money, allowing her to buyherself anything she fancied including foodstuff, clothing and jewelries. However, in thecourse of histories peregrination, the meaning and metaphor of dowry acquired a negativemetamorphosis.Moreover, Vedas prescribed dowry and the ancient Vedic custom of 
’ and ‘
’ were in essence of the dowry system. An archetype – when Sita was married to ‘godlyRama, her father supplied her with gold, pearls,carriages, horses, elephants, slaves, and many other items. Thus, dowry, which is the veryroot of the Hindu evils, is given ‘divine’ sanction by the ‘noble’ Hindu gods. Other  precedents like Aurangzeb demanding the fortress of Ramgiri on the marriage of his son1
to a princess from Golconda; Akbar setting the paradigm when Jahangir married thedaughter of Raja Bawagan Das; Catherine of Braganza, the non-Indian, marrying CharlesII and bringing with her the island of Bombay as her dowry system traversed over emperors reign, region and religion.
The traditional ideas such as ‘
’ and ‘
’ should not be mixedor mingled with today’s dowry. The ‘
’ assets that were given to the bridegroom by the feudal land owning class later assumed nomenclature of dowry. This dowrysystem was intended to indicate the affluence of the feudal landlords and was a statussymbol to offer gifts to the bridegroom. Today, it has taken cancerous dimension,acquiring a very new phenomenon and becoming a permanent trait in the lives of theworking middle class even.Under the impact of liberalization and the growing consumerism, the practice of dowry has intensified and expanded its reach. Today, Indian weddings are occasions for conspicuous spending with the invitation of numerous acquaintances, parking of carsoutside the wedding hall, costly clothing and jewelry, the cash given to the groom, thelavish dinners, the
lights, band music, processions etc. There is an attempt toequate these tendencies of show-off to ‘
’, which is only an attempt to legitimizea modern monstrosity by linking it up with an ancient respected custom. For the poor, ithas turned to be an obligation to marry off their daughters with dowry, with whatever their economic means. Hence, the whole system acts to pauperize families and makedaughters a curse. As the customs have taken the form of a compulsive nature, what issurprising is that the imposture has had so much success.Countless stories of horror, brutality, cruelty and cold-blooded murder in thename of dowry is reported which could rip apart any heart with the crudity of their details. Today dowry seems to have disappeared from national consciousness eventhough thousands of women continue to be burnt, poisoned, electrocuted or forced to2
commit suicide every year. Cases of dowry harassment no longer merited prime positionsin news papers and stories of dowry deaths were now being relegated to the inside pages,reflecting a clear shifts in social priorities. Why even the women organizations are mutein this matter?Amidst all these community lackadaisicalness, recently, Nisha Sharma in Delhi,Vidhya in Chennai and Farzana, a Muslim woman calling off their marriages because of dowry demands by the greedy groom’s kin, caught in media and public cynosure. Theyhave set the anti-dowry wave in motion becoming an icon for young brides and women, acase study for Ladies Forum and the torchbearer of the Indian middleclass girls cause. Allwere waiting for this spark. Let it turn into a revolutionary inferno quenching the hunger in dowry mongers.
Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 stemmed from a noticeable increase in the number of Indian brides documented to have died from suspicious and mysterious circumstances.The cause of death was characteristically labeled as ‘kitchen fires’. One of the manycases significant for its contribution to the anti-dowry law in India is the case of Delhi’sSatyarani Chadha, who fought for 20 years to seek punishment for her son-in-law, whohad burnt to death his six-month pregnant wife. So long drawn out was the legal battlethat even the laws changed during the course of the case proceedings. It was during thehearing of this case that the IPC was amended in 1986 to incorporate Section 304-B anddefined for the first time a ‘dowry death’. In spite, the harsher legal amendments in 1968to that of 1961 Dowry Act such as Section 174 CrPC enforcing investigations of suspicious bridal deaths and stringent punishments for those found guilty and convictedof bride burning, the social evil continues. Now a day, Section 498-A is shamelessly abused both by police and by lower  judiciary violating all the constitutional guarantees promised in the constitution of democratic India. The process of trial and punishment of the accused in dowry death3

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