Hyderabad remembers 1991 case of child marriage racket involving elderly Arabs

Hyderabad remembers 1991 case of child marriage racket involving elderly Arabs. Photo: Twitter

Hyderabad/Telangana, September 22: The child-bride racket that involved elderly Arabs restored the memory of the 1991 incident when 11-year-old Ameena Begum was rescued by an airhostess from the girl’s husband who was old enough to be her grandfather. According to reliable sources, the Hyderabad police on Wednesday stated that they have to rescued 12 underaged girls and exposed a major racket along with the arrest of 20 accused including eight Arabs- five Omanis and three Qataris.

The minor girls from poor families getting married to elderly Arabs is not a new tradition in Hyderabad. The racket involves middlemen and those based in Gulf countries, who attract poor families with the promise to pull out from poverty. The racket was continuously taking place with the connivance of the qazis who perform these marriages in violation of all rules.

On August 10, 1991, this practice came into light as the child-bride Ameena Begum got rescued by the flight attendant Amrita Ahluwalia on a Hyderabad-New Delhi Indian Airlines flight. The child Ameena Begum was found crying and hwen asked she disclosed that her parents married her off to a 60-year-old Saudi national Yahya Al-Sagih. When the flight landed in New Delhi, Amrita Ahluwalia alerted the police and rescued the girl from going to the Gulf. The Saudi man Yahya Al-Sagih was arrested and this incident led to nationwide outcry against the practice of marriages of young girls with elderly Arabs.

According to official sources, Badruddin, Ammena Begum’s father who was an autorickshaw driver was also booked. Badruddin and his wife Sabera Begum defended their action saying his low income was not enough to feed six daughters and two sons. Many Non Governmental Organizations came forward to help but the poor family complained that they got verylittle assistance. Badruddin died in 1994. Ameena, who had set up an embroidery unit with help from the Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Finance Corporation married off two of her siblings. She married an Arabic school teacher in 2003.

Amrita Ahluwalia who hails from Haryana wanted to adopt Ameena but this did not materialise. She shifted her residence from New Delhi to Hyderabad and later set up the NGO Srishti in order to help women and children in distress. Amrita Ahluwalia took voluntary retirement from Indian Airlines and feels that it is unfortunate that minor girls continue to be sold in the garb of marriages and not only in Hyderabad, but almost in almost every Indian city. Though battling cancer, Amrita Ahluwalia is planning to set up a helpline at Hyderabad airport to help women in distress.