Left to right, deserted wives turned activists: In Chandigarh, Reena Chauhan, Amrit Pal Kaur, Ritu Sharma and Rupali Gupta, the founders of Together We Can. (Photo source Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Our year-ending story of hope and empowerment
Most of us have come face to face with devastating stories of trans-national abandonment, dowry related violence and traumatic separation of women from their children. Against the sad Indian statistic that ‘one NRI wife calls home for help every eight hours’ is this gritty story of 14 courageous women who teamed up to set things right.
Rupali Gupta, MTech in computer engineering, set the tweets rolling in Dec 2017 when her NRI husband of three months left her, taking the wedding gifts to UK where he already had a wife. Rupali was pregnant and distraught. She tweeted her story to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi. She also explored social media to link up with others of similar fate - Amrit Pal Kaur (M.Sc Information Technology), Reena Chauhan, Ritu Sharma (pursuing PhD in biochemistry), Sumera Parkar, Yasmeen Kaur (dentist)….the response was overwhelming. Today the group is more than 350 women strong.
The group, called Together We Can, has already had powerful impact: in June this year Rupali’s husband’s passport was impounded. By November 24 more passports were revoked.
Indian Government: tightening the nuts and bolts
- Preparing Bill to attach properties of NRI husbands in domestic violence cases
- The Bill is to be tabled in the Indian parliament in this winter session, which has begun.
- Planning to introduce this offence in extradition treaties. This would enable the government to extradite Indians accused of dowry harassment from countries that have not included this act in their statutes as a criminal offence.
- On case basis, the state police may issue ‘Look-out-Circulars’ when the offender is evading arrest.
- The Ministry of External Affairs will be able to issue summons issued to NRI men who have not responded to earlier summons on its website.
- Amendments will need to be made in the Passport Act to enable suitable action.
See also Passport Office to the rescue>
And read more on what NRI grooms can’t do!>
Together We Can
In a talk with news magazine Tehelka, founder Rupali says “We started out as a small group-with just a bunch of us, 10-12 in the beginning who had similar stories to share, some deserted within a week after the marriage to some deserted after two-three years, some with children-we all were bound by a common thread of sorrow, sadness and despair. All of us on an individual level were trying to do all we can to get justice and we decided to rather chip in the efforts together. Today, we are more than 350 women and have a set up at the RPO Chandigarh. We are managing the NRI Helpline and every day we are getting about 50 calls and more and more women are coming out.”
Rupali and the other dedicated volunteers have been supported by their families but they know they need to be self-reliant too. Getting a job, completing studies, moving on, are part of their positive program to set things right again.
It is a heart-lifting story of courage, resilience, community mobilization and support, by young girls with broken dreams.
If they can, we surely can.