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India’s Abandoned Wives: Women Left by NRI Spouses Cry for Help

Women who have been deserted by NRI husbands share their ordeal as they press for a new law that can ensure justice.

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Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Illustrations: Aroop Mishra
Producer: Akanksha Kumar

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On a chilly February morning, as hundreds of protesters gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a group of about 40-50 women huddled in a corner. Holding posters with captions such as, ‘#NRINightmare’, these women had come from as far as Maharashtra’s Parli town in Beed to Hisar in Haryana and Punjab’s Jalandhar district.

In the midst of slogans about farm crisis and unemployment, a low decibel chant demanding that NRI husbands who have deserted their wives in India should be prosecuted filled the air.

While the size and scale of protests, organised on 4 February, might be small, these women had gathered to highlight a not-so-often-reported crisis that’s affecting those who choose NRIs (non resident Indians) to be their better halves.

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Twenty-seven-year-old Pooja was looking forward to a new start after getting married to Suhas who had a job in United Kingdom.

It was an arranged marriage and Pooja’s close relative knew her would-be husband.

But Pooja’s dreams of a ‘happily ever after’ life were shattered soon when she noticed a change in Suhas’ behaviour soon after marriage. It was the delay in visa-related formalities that made her suspicious.

  • Women who have been deserted by their NRI husbands without any formal communication participate in a protest at Jantar Mantar on 4 February 2019.

    (Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

“Two times, he (husband) applied for visitor’s visa instead of dependent’s visa. I told my father, while we applied for the third time, that something doesn’t seem to be right.”
Pooja Suhas Jadhav

Thirty-one-year-old Bindu, who is currently staying with her parents in Meerut met a similar fate. After her husband left for Abu Dhabi in 2012, repeated incidents of domestic violence took a toll on her. Her husband’s intermittent calls stopped in 2015 soon after the couple had a daughter.

“She (daughter) has started asking, “Where is my Papa?” I’m not able to give any reply. I’m also worried about my future. 
Bindu Rawal Kushwaha
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In November 2018, Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj promised to bring a Bill which can help those women who have been left behind by their NRI spouses. Even as the wait for a new law continues, women like Pooja and Bindu hope for a closure that can help them move on in life.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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