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'Arranged' weddings, Bihar style: kidnap and marry

BEGUSARAI OCT. 26. With the arrival of the wedding season, fear has gripped the parents of unmarried men in Begusarai, which is known for `forced marriages'.

`Pakraua Vivah' (forced marriage) is an old practice in the district, but the menace has assumed alarming proportions in recent years and spread to the neighbouring districts too.

With dowry demands rising, the families of girls seek help from criminal gangs that kidnap youths and force them into wedlock, Pramod Singh, a social activist said.

Thirteen cases of forced marriage were recorded by the police here from February to July. Last year, the number was 15. The practice is prevalent in the Matihani, Balia, Sahebpur Kamal, Bakhri, Teghra and Baghwara blocks of Begusarai. But a large number of cases go unreported as the families fear the criminal gangs.

Many gangs thrive on this high-profit, low-risk business, police said. The gangs charge a handsome commission for kidnapping a boy for marriage. Their responsibility does not end here; they stay till the marriage is solemnised and the girl sent to the boy's home, informed sources said.

In many cases, the villagers extend support to the girl's family. The ceremony is videographed so that the tapecan be used as evidence later.

Though forced marriages take place among all castes, it is more prevalent among the upper castes where the demand for dowry is more.

PTI

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