LUCKNOW: No, the residents of Fattepur don’t draw inspiration from the harems of sheikhs. The practice of polygamy in this Hindu-dominated village under Isangara block of Lakhimpur Kheri district is simply a tradition that has refused to die out, although the law makes it a criminal offence.
The villagers here have scant regard for the Hindu Marriage Act and male members of at least three dozen families of Brahmins and Thakurs in Fattepur, 45 km from Kheri district headquarters, have married twice or even thrice.
Ram Sajeevan Singh, 40, a resident of the village gives some insight. “It’s not that after the first marriage, the second or third ones are done surreptitiously or under some pressure. Equal pomp and show is there in every marriage of an already married man,” he says.
But no such instance has reached either police station or court of law so far from Fattepur, he adds. Those who work outside the district maintain two houses -- one in the village and the other at the place of their job – having one wife each at both the places. In other households, both the wives enjoy a peaceful co-existence making peace with their situation.
“Many of the men are in government jobs and are well aware of the consequences of indulging in polygamy, but they have more than one wife for their own reasons,” says another villager who himself had three wives of whom one is no more.
There is a family in the village where every man has two wives as a tradition. However, the reasons for marrying more than once vary from family to family. Some marry twice or thrice to earn more respect while some others do it to get an heir to the property and expand their clan. Some elderly persons of the village claim that it soon turned into a competition and a status symbol.
Sarvesh Singh has two wives living in the same house enjoying a good rapport with each other. Villagers said that Sarvesh married for the second time after four years of his first marriage when his wife failed to conceive. But after the second marriage, the first wife too gave birth to two children and the second one is the mother of four. "Now, Sarvesh has distributed his property among all his children equally," says village head Shyam Bihari Dwivedi.
On the other hand, Girish Chandra Pandey, 78, had a unique reason to marry twice. His first wife was a frequent visitor to her parents’ place and short-tempered too. Once she went to her parents’ place and did not return for 6-7 months. Pandey married another girl and when the first wife learnt about it, she also
returned. Now both live together and Pandey has made an equal distribution of his land following the instructions of the village panchayat.
Sometimes, girls from poor families agree to marry a rich man even if he is already married once, claim the villagers.
"Till the last decade, at least three dozen people belonging to the elite had married twice or thrice and the majority of men had two wives in the village," says villager Shekhar Shukla, 35, while explaining the scenario. However, now the winds of change are sweeping the village as the upcoming generation, aware of the repercussions, is discarding the age-old regressive practice.