Panaji: Already infamous as a drugs-and-sex destination, Goa may now have to contend with another unsavoury association - dowry. Four dowry cases, including two dowry-related deaths, have rocked the state over the last three weeks. With this, women's group alleging that the spurt only goes to show that ‘not all is well’ in Goa, which is otherwise known as one of India's most progressive states.

Suvarna Naik and Rasika Kuttikar, both alleged victims of dowry-related harassment, committed suicide in the first week of June.

Two other women, Isha D'Souza and Sanjukta, filed dowry harassment complaints against their respective husbands and in-laws last week.

Interestingly, in two instances, the in-laws are mid-level bureaucrats.

'This is a side of Goa which never surfaces. Such social evils here are hidden under layers of glamour, which people look for in Goa. Dowry cases aren't being registered in Goa. They are dismissed by the police as mere domestic hassles and buried under the carpet,' Sabina Martins, convenor of rights organisation Bailancho Saad, told IANS.

Sabina said that dowry cases were spread across class, caste and religion in Goa, with government servants featuring as the aggressors in several instances.

For instance, in the case involving Sanjukta, which was registered after much delay June 15, a deputy superintendent of police, a police sub inspector and an assistant prosecutor of police have been named as accused.

According to Tara Kerkar, who also runs a women's right NGO called Savera, the Rasika Kuttikar case, which was the first dowry case filed in this present spurt, received a lot of media publicity and could have spurred other dowry victims and their kin to come forward and file police complaints.

'You cannot deny the fact that when the media picked up these cases, it must have emboldened the oppressed parties. In Rasika's case, her husband was using political influence to suppress police action. That could be countered only because of media pressure,' Kerkar said.

Chairperson of the Goa State Women's Commission (GSWC) Ezilda Sapeco said that the commission had taken note of the sudden rise in the number of dowry cases.

'I have asked for reports from all police stations about each and every dowry or domestic harassment-related case which has been reported over the last five years,' Sapeco said.

As far as official statistics go, 21 dowry-harassment cases were registered in 2009 while 17 were registered in 2010.

But Sapeco admitted that a more detailed perusal of the data collected from police stations might reveal a different picture.

'Each and every case reported will be looked into. We cannot take chances with dowry cases,' she said.

A police spokesperson said that a special police station had been set up in 2001 to deal with cases related to women.

'The police station sees several cases involving domestic disputes and dowry-related instances. But apart from registering cases, we also provide counselling services in order to redress differences,' the spokesperson said.

 

(Agencies)