Investigations into the recent spate of child marriages in the old city area of Hyderabad led to a major crackdown of “Sheikh Marriage” racket in the city.
Hyderabad city police have arrested five Omani and three Qatar nationals, along with three Qazis, including a chief Qazi of Mumbai — Farid Ahmed Khan, who is accused of preparing forged Nikahnama and marriage certificates, thereby creating an international human trafficking ring.
“We raided two locations in the city and have arrested about 20 people. The raids were conducted based on a tip-off from a girl, who was a victim in the case. Three Qazis, one of whom is from Mumbai, are among the ones arrested. The girls were sexually assaulted not just by the Qazis but also other men. Explotiation of at least 12 girls was prevented in this crackdown. Charges under IPC Sections 420 (cheating and dishonest), 370 (exploitation), rape and POCSO Act have been filed,” said the Hyderabad police commissioner M Mahendar Reddy.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, V Satyanarayana said, “The modus-operandi of the racket was to target poor families with minor girls. They would promise them to pay money besides taking them to Gulf countries, where they can have a happy life. The Arab nationals would spend anywhere between Rs 3-10 lakhs. Most of the money would be taken by the brokers and Qazi”.
In August, Hyderabad police arrested 77-year-old Sheikh from Oman for ‘buying’ a 16-year-old bride for Rs 5 lakh. The Qazi, who solemnized the wedding was also arrested.
The police, during its investigations, found a network that starts right from the arrival of Arab nationals, till their marriage and subsequent departure.
Brokers, who work in the Gulf countries, would associate with Arab nationals during their stay and help them communicate with local girls and their families. The Arab nationals would then trap the girls by offering large sums of money to these poor families.
There are even brokers especially married to Hyderabad women, whose job is to identify poor families interested in marrying off their daughters for money without bothering about the age of the groom.
The brokers segregate their clients into three categories. The first category of clients are called ‘Autowala’. Second, the ‘Ambassador Carwala’, who take shelter at local hotels of Charminar and third, the high category, called ‘Innovawala’, who are accommodated in upscale five-star hotels.
The brokers then arrange visas, fake documents like birth certificate etc. and passport for the girl. They even go to the extend of using their own house to arrange meetings between the girls and Arab nationals.
The lodge owners have also been arrested for abetting illegal activities.
The police have also opened a suspect sheet against 48 individuals including local brokers, lodge owners and Qazis.
In order to prevent these crimes, police issued advisories to the Minority Welfare Department, asking them to publish guidelines for foreign nationals who wish to get married in Hyderabad.
The police, in their advisory, have asked that foreigners bring an NOC from their country and submit an application with the Commissioner of police if they intend to marry a girl in the city. The police have also asked for the gap between wife and husband to not be more than 10 years.