No woman left behind: Meet Satwinder who fights to bring justice to women abandoned by their NRI husbands
Registered in 2018, the organisation 'Abbnhi' has so far fought for settlement in the form of obtaining divorce, alimony or rehabilitation for more than 700 women.
The anguish is the same, these are the living dead,” says Satwinder Kaur Satti, likening abandoned NRI brides in India to satis (widows who would self-immolate in the pyre of their husbands). “Who says the practice does not exist? Hundreds of innocent brides are forced to burn in hell each day after being duped by their grooms,” says the 41-year-old founder and president of the Abandoned Brides By NRI Husbands Internationally (Abbnhi) Welfare Society.
Registered in 2018, the organisation has so far fought for settlement in the form of obtaining divorce, alimony or rehabilitation for more than 700 women.
Upbeat and confident, it is hard to imagine this chatty self-taught activist as a once naïve young bride. Based in Toosa village of Ludhiana, Punjab, Satti too was a helpless woman once who believed that her husband would take her along to Ukraine—where he was based—on his next visit, only to be dumped by him in 2015 after six years of marriage. Finally, she and her family turned to police, women’s cells and similar organisations for assistance. “Through this difficult journey, my late neighbour Rakesh Sharma, whom I consider my mentor, remained by my side,” says the social activist, who initially had no introduction to the laws of the land and the power of social media. With Sharma’s guidance, she obtained justice not just for herself, but also set up an NGO to fight for the rights of brides who had ended up like her.
“Recently we managed to unite a young bride from Chandigarh, who after her marriage to an NRI living in the US, was left to live with her in-laws for years. Her husband was simply using her as a caretaker for his property. Now the girl is settled in the US. We remain constantly in touch with all rehabilitated brides to ensure their well-being,” says Satti. Another case that brings a smile to her face is about a girl from Sangrur, who was recently taken to Canada by her husband after the NGO intervened. Yet another recent case is from Ludhiana with the girl finally travelling to Italy with her husband. More than two dozen couples have been united so far by the organisation.
Abbnhi uses methods like persuasion, coercion and threats of legal action to make the groom and his family come around. It gets cases registered against erring husbands, gets their passports impounded, and arranges for lookout circulars to be issued, besides putting societal pressure on their families.
This is not just an issue specific to Punjab or Haryana, Satti says. “You will be surprised to know the number of calls we get from states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar, Kerala and Delhi,” she says, adding, “Sadly, this issue does not get the attention it deserves as our patriarchal mindset is not sympathetic to the plight of such women.
Getting authorities to take note or to even register FIRs against the men is an uphill task.” Countless trips to the police station, endless waiting for a hearing all the while worrying about daily sustenance can break the strongest of spirits. Furthermore, the long drawn-out battle in the court for divorce or maintenance needs not just patience, but resources which the girls and their families often lack.
“This is the reason most men go scot-free. We, however, are trying to bring about change through generating awareness,” says Satti, who is now also helping 50 men duped by their wives in a similar manner. More power to her and others of her ilk.