It's an open secret in Hyderabad that many young girls are married off to rich sheikhs from the Gulf nations.
Last month, TNM had reported on the web of brokers and qazis who run the elaborate trafficking racket in Hyderabad after a 16-year-old girl was sold to an Omani sheikh.
In a massive operation, eight men – five Omani nationals and three Qatar nationals – were nabbed by the Hyderabad police on Wednesday. These men estimated to be in their 50s and 60s, one as old as 80 years old, were in the city to marry minor girls and traffic them to the Middle East.
The police have cracked a nexus of shiekhs, Muslim clerics and agents, who were trafficking several minors.
Al Mayahi Habib Ali Issa, Al Salhi Talib Humeid Ali, Al Ubaidani Juma Shinoon Sulaiman, Al Salehi Nasser Khalifa Hamed, Al Qasimi Hassan Mazaaul Mohammed, Omer Mohammed Seraj Abdal Rahman, Hamad Jabir O Al-Kuwari, and Safeldin Mohammed Mohamednour Salih from Oman and Qatar were arrested by the police.
Four lodge owners and five brokers, three Qazis were also arrested, including Chief Qazi of Mumbai, Farid Ahmed Khan, who is the kingpin. The police said that they have identified 35 brokers in Hyderabad alone.
Menace starts in the Gulf
There are many brokers in the Gulf countries, of which 15 were identified from Oman and Qatar, the police said.
“These brokers will associate with the Sheikhs during their stay, and help them communicate with the local girls and their families. Often, parents are lured with money, and innocent Muslim girls are dragged into marriage to a wealthy sheikh. After reaching the new country, the women end up getting exploited at the hands of several others,” the police said in a press release.
“The agents are responsible for everything. From the reception at the Hyderabad airport to transportation, accommodation, identifying girls, convincing parents, interview between the girl and the Sheikh, coordination with Qazis, making sure that all forged documents are ready, and then sending the girl to her ‘husband’,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner M Mahender Reddy told mediapersons on Wednesday.
“Several brokers are also women. We will open history sheets on all of them and track their residences, lodges, houses and even use geo-tagging if necessary,” he added.
The police also said that local brokers segregate their clients into three categories – Autowala, Ambassador car wala, and Innova wala.
While the first two categories take shelter at local hotels in areas like Chandrayangutta and Charminar, sheikhs from the third category get five-star treatment.
“They are accommodated at upscale star hotels. The agents will exhibit the girls at the hotels, or the shiekhs will visit the house of the girl or broker, to select the one they want to marry,” the police said.
The police said that they had uncovered the entire racket, as they were investigating a specific case of a 16-year-old girl from Hyderabad who was sold to an Omani sheikh. In spite of the Indian government intervening, the girl has not been rescued from the sheikh.
The marriage was performed in May at a guest house in Jalpally where the Omani national was staying. He returned home after the marriage and sent a visa for the girl, who later joined him in Muscat.
Later, the girl informed her parents over the phone that her husband was mentally and physically torturing her.
Following this, her mother Fathima* lodged a complaint at the Falaknuma police station that her husband, his sister, Ghousia Begum, and brother-in-law, Sikander, "sold" the girl to the Omani man for Rs 5 lakh.
According to reports, they paid Rs 5 lakh to the brokers at the time of 'nikaah', which they also allegedly split with the Qazi who performed the marriage.
"We are making diplomatic efforts to retrieve the girl. Since the shiekh is claiming that she is his wife, there is a due process to follow. We are working as fast as we can, to get the girl back,” Commissioner Mahendra Reddy said.
The local brokers
The police arrested five local brokers in relation to the case, who were also involved in other such cases.
The first person, identified as Ahmed arranged visas for domestic workers, beauticians and married girls.
Another person arrested by the police was Mohammed Asif Mohammed.
According to the police, he converted his house, located at Kalapather, into a plush guest house and was inviting Sheikhs to come and select young girls for marriage. Two Qatar sheikhs were caught red-handed when the police raided his house.
The police also arrested one Habeeb Khan, who was involved in four child marriages including the Omani case.
The Chief Qazi of Mumbai, Fareed Ahmed Khan, a respected figure in the city, was indulging in large-scale trafficking of minor girls, according to the police.
“In this instant case, he prepared a forged document to show that the marriage was performed at Mumbai, and also provided a fake marriage certificate, with the stamp of the Oman Embassy,” the police said.
His assistant, Nayab Qazi Munawwar Ali, was also arrested for preparing the forged documents.
In Hyderabad, the police arrested Qazi Habeeb Ali for knowingly performing the marriage of a minor, thereby violating Indian law.
One more Qazi, Ali Abdullah Rafia, was absconding.
The police raided several lodges, including FK Plaza, Ghalib Residency, MJ Anas Guest House, Wincity Developer and hotels in Chandrayangutta, where one Omani national was caught red-handed.
Four owners of all the four lodges were arrested, while a suspect sheet was opened against 38 local brokers, 4 lodge owners, and all the Qazis who were identified.
Mahender Reddy also told media persons that the parents were paid around Rs 1 lakh each, while the middle men and the agents made away with the most money.
"There is a massive network, and at least Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh changes hands at each such instance," he said.