Absence of Dowry System in North-East-Romanticism or the Truth???

Let’s not get carried away. Dowry system does exist in North-east India too. It might not be as direct or discreetly observable like it is in the other regions of India. The recent highlight by the Aamir Khan show ‘Satyamev Jayate’ revealing that there is ‘no’ dowry system in the North-eastern states of India is not completely true. The person testifying for ‘Aamir Khan’ mentions that the dress for the bride comes from the groom’s family during marriage. But does it mean complete absence of Dowry system? The answer again would be a NO. It is just a cultural practice. We can analyze it from varied angles but I shall not delve much on it now.

In my belief, there is fundamental mistake in viewing the problems of dowry and gender violence in the North-eastern states. Almost all the time it is seen in comparison with the other states thereby leading to the romanticism of the idea of lesser gender violence and increased women empowerment in the erstwhile North-East India. Any academic discussions related with gender discrimination in the North-east starts off with a hypothesis about the absence of it and an attempt to prove the hypothesis right. Thus, many of it goes unnoticed and people still remain in that state of glorification.

dowryNo doubt, women relatively enjoy more mobility and lesser gender discrimination in states like Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya etc. but questions like; Has it led to real empowerment or increased decision making power of women or has it alleviated the status of women in North-eastern states are seldom researched upon or talked about. A recent research conducted by Guwahati based organization; ‘North East Network’ reveals that there has been a considerable rise in dowry related violence over the years in Assam. According to its study many of the respondents revealed about taking loans to bear the pressure of marriage. The concept of dowry today is slowly and steadily making its progression into the north-eastern societies. Of course they are given politically correct terms like ‘Gifts’ to the bride. Parents talks about social pressures leading them to give a lot of ‘gifts’ to their daughters.

Also negating the presence of dowry system in North-east would mean completely ignoring the cultural diversity of the States. The dowry system is very much prevalent in the non-indigenous communities of Assam (By non-indigenous, I mean the communities like Bengali, Marwari, Sikhs, Punjabis, Nepalis or any other community which a non-northeasterner might not relate to while referring to the region). But again, saying that it is only limited to these communities will also be very wrong. Let me quote an example of my own community. I belong to the Mising Community, which is the second largest tribe in Assam. Almost 90% of the marriages in my community happen through eloping. Yes, Eloping as a form of marriage is socially and culturally recognized in our community. The system of ‘Gifts’ mentioned in the above paragraphs are limited to the elite sections of my community. In almost all the tribal communities of Assam (including my community), the girls when they get married, take all their movable belongings like woven clothes, sometimes domestic animals too, and jewellery with them. The question here might be what is the harm then? But on being observed it can be seen that the amount of ‘movable assets’ the new bride has brought in becomes the talk of the town. Thus, the women and their parents are forced to increase the quantity of the movable assets.

The debate can go on. The essential characteristics of any patriarchal society like absence of inheritance rights, gendered concept of ‘ideal woman’, witch hunting (limited to rural communities) are very much to be found in the North-eastern states too. There are very strict division of gender roles. And the presence of conflict situations make it even worse. If the north-eastern societies wish to progress towards more equivalent society, then there is a need to address the symptoms which are rapidly beginning to form a part of social cultural aspect of the region. Or else it shall be too late…….So till then lets stall our romanticism and not get carried away.

Note: The image shown above is only for display purpose.

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7 Comments

  1. May 21, 2012
    Reply

    you mean-that in the northeastern states too , the girl goes to the husband’s house.what i have heard is that,in northeastern states-the tribes are matrilinial and the boy comes to girl’s house.

  2. May 22, 2012
    Reply

    Dear Prateek, See thats precisely I am talking. North-east like any other society is patriarchal and patrilineal. The only matrilineal community are the khasis but that too there are many other features within like the youngest daughter stays home and the groom has to come to her house.
    Therefore there is a need to dig in deeper rather than believing in everything we hear.

  3. May 25, 2012
    Reply

    पूर्वोत्तर भारत में अभी भी दहेज प्रथा इतनी जोरो-शोरो से नहीं चली है। लेकिन कोई आश्चर्य नहीं होगा अगर यह कुप्रथा यहा भी चल पड़ी तो। पूर्वोत्तर में शेष भारत से आने वाले लोग अपने साथ-साथ अपनी सभ्यता एवं परम्परा को भी लेकर आते हैं, उन्हीं की देखा-देखी अब पूर्वोत्तर भारत में यह कुप्रथा फैल गयी है। शुक्र है अभी भी कुछ समुदाय ऐसे है जिनमें यह कुप्रथा नहीं है। जैसे मैं सिलेठी बंगाली परिवार से हूँ। हमारे समुदाय में अभी तक दहेज प्रथा का प्रचलन नहीं है। यदि इस प्रथा को समाप्त करना ही है तो चाहिए कि वे ही लोग आगे आए जिनके यहाँ इस कुप्रथा का प्रचलन सबसे अधिक होता है और वे ही इस कुप्रथा को स्वयं उसकी जड़ समेत नाश कर दे। और उन लोगों से भी दूरी बनाए रखे जो इस प्रथा को प्रत्यक्ष या अप्रत्यक्ष रूप से जीवित रखे हुए है। क्योंकि इस कुप्रथा के अभी तक समाज से न मिटने का सबसे बड़ा कारण है कि आजकल स्वयं लड़कियों के परिवार ही लड़कों के परिवार वालों के दहेज देकर ही शादी की मांग करते है ताकि उनके हाथ से कही तथाकथित अच्छा लड़का न छूट जाए। और वे लोग भी जो दूसरों के जीवन में अपनी जीवन से अधिक दिलचस्पी रखते है और ताने मार-मार कर उनका जीना मुश्किल करते है जो इसके विरुद्ध एक सकारात्मक कदम उठाते है। दहेज प्रथा का मूल नाश तभी हो सकता है जब लड़के के परिवार वाले और खुद लड़के में यह समझ होनी चाहिए कि शादी में दहेज कितना मिल रहा है वह जरूरी नहीं है बल्कि जीवनसाथी कैसा और परिवार कैसा मिल रहा है वह जरूरी है। दहेज में मिले पैसे और साजो-सामान जीवन भर काम नहीं आते है बल्कि जीवनसाथी जीवनभर रहता है। यदि कल को भूकंप आ गया और आपको मिला सारा दहेज का सामान बर्बाद हो गया तो क्या करेंगे? सामान तो फिर भी खरीदा जा सकता है लेकिन सही जीवनसाथी बार-बार तो नहीं मिलता। जब अंत समय आएगा तो जीवनसाथी आपका साथ दे सकेगा, दहेज नहीं। वह बिरादरी भी आपका साथ नहीं दे सकेगी जिसमें रहने के लिए आप दहेज का साथ देते हो। रोज़मर्रा की जिन्दगी में, आपके व्यक्तिगत सुख-दुख में,बिरादरी नहीं बार-बार आती है। न ही रिश्तेदार ही। आप कब खाना खाते हो, कब सोते हो, आपकी बिमारी, आपके नौकरी या काम की टेंशन जो भी है उसमें बिरादरी या दहेज काम नहीं आता है बल्कि आपका जीवनसाथी काम आता है। यदि बिरादरी वाले क्या कहेंगे या मज़ाक उड़ाएंगे तो ऐसे लोगों के साथ ही बने रहने की क्या आवश्यकता है। उसे छोड़ दो। बल्कि सकारात्मक सोच और जीवन को सही ढंग से जीने वाले लोगों के साथ रहना सबसे अच्छा है।

  4. Rajorshi Sen
    June 6, 2012
    Reply

    Hi Mr. Pegu
    The intention of Aamir’s show is to highlight the customs of other communities compared to that of north-east.
    Dowry is an eastablished custom which is undoubtly evil in communities other than North-East.
    Its just equivalent to the Seven circles (saath Pharee) that the couples make around the fire for communities other than those in North-East.

    In Assamese wedding , there is custom called “Joron” in which the ladies from the Bridegroom’s party would have to take oranaments and apparels meant for the Bride and
    would have to display is infront of everybody in the Bridge’s party. Whereas, whatever the bride’s family give is not verified publicly.

    Aamir’s show portrays the real and actual custom and practice of North-East. Any incident of dowry in the North-East is not within the custom and is not an acceptable practice.
    This is rather an exception than a rule. Even though by your account , the exception is growing.
    Also , communities living in North-East which does not belong to North-East , might practice dowry which should definitely be penalised but its wrong to make the communities in North-East
    reponsible for that.

    thanks
    Rajorshi

  5. Ankur Sharma
    November 11, 2014
    Reply

    Well Said MAdhu..I am Totally Agreed with your thoughts…

  6. Benison
    August 4, 2015
    Reply

    Good info… I feel proud of my NE Indigeneous community who doesn’t practised dowry since time immemorial.
    We must uphold the ethical standard of our area by taking strinvent measures by not letting the non Indigeneous to bring bad name to our Region in the name of Dowry.

    In our KHASI or GARO (Both mateilineal society) Dowry is zero which is a great sign of no gender discrimination in the area.

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