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Pictures Report

RTS2UCFL
The runaway husbands of India
The men promised a life abroad. They demanded -- and got -- tens of thousands of dollars in dowry. Then they left, abandoning their wives, and sometimes children, in India, as they settled in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. But now those wives are fighting back. In a pink-walled room of a government office at the foot of the Himalayas, they spend their days canceling the passports of runaway husbands. They've created what the regional passport chief describes as a "terror" in several foreign countries.
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91X
December 10, 2019
Women, who say they have been abandoned by their NRI (non-resident Indian) husbands, take part in an...
Jalandhar, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Women, who say they have been abandoned by their NRI (non-resident Indian) husbands, take part in an organised protest outside the regional passport office in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91R
December 10, 2019
Amritpal Kaur (left) and Reena Mehla (right) work together at a desk in the regional passport office...
Chandigarh, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Amritpal Kaur (left) and Reena Mehla (right) work together at a desk in the regional passport office in Chandigarh, Punjab, India, March 28, 2019. Both Kaur and Mehla say their NRI (non-resident Indian) husbands have abandoned them. Mehla knows she’s defying traditions back home, where married women don’t leave the house without male relatives or have a separate identity. "Even our soul is not allowed, because a husband is everything. A husband is like God," she says. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91K
December 10, 2019
Amritpal Kaur (left) looks at Reena Mehla (right) while she cries remembering her husband, who she says...
Chandigarh, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Amritpal Kaur (left) looks at Reena Mehla (right) while she cries remembering her husband, who she says abandoned her and left for the U.S. after a few years of marriage, at lodgings where both Kaur and Mehla live in Chandigarh, Punjab, India, March 29, 2019. Mehla was 24 when she got married. Five years later, she says, her husband told her he was going to work extra police duty shifts elsewhere in India, and instead hired human smugglers to take him to the United States.

Rahul Kumar now lives in the Bronx. Reena wrote to India's Ministry of External Affairs, the U.S. Embassy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, searched Facebook, and eventually found him. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91J
December 10, 2019
Amritpal Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, watches a sitcom on her...
Chandigarh, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Amritpal Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, watches a sitcom on her mobile phone before going to sleep in her lodging in Chandigarh, Punjab, India, March 29, 2019. When Amritpal talks about her marriage, she keeps coming back to the money she spent on it: She says she forked over $28,000 on the dowry and wedding; three days after they were married, she says, her husband told her to get $14,000 more from her father. Her husband, Kulpreet Singh, said all the money she had earned working for two years in England also needed to come to him, she says.

Two weeks after the wedding, he left for Australia. For months afterward, he told her he had a surprise. She was so excited she ordered a $3,500 diamond ring for him.

His surprise, she says, was divorce papers.

Kulpreet did not respond to requests for comment.


REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92G
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur speaks to a woman who visited Kaur to ask for advice on a personal issue, at her house...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur speaks to a woman who visited Kaur to ask for advice on a personal issue, at her house in the village of Toosa, south of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, March 9, 2019. Only a few thousand people live in Toosa, but her relationships span the globe. She's helping nearly 400 women who've been abandoned by their men, she says, getting several of their runaway husbands deported from their adopted countries and jailed. Every few minutes her phone rings. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92C
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reads messages on her phone...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reads messages on her phone at her house in the village of Toosa, south of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, April 21, 2019. Kaur says her neighbours and even relatives call her banj, or "rotten womb,". "In my own house, I was called that." she said. Even for Satwinder, who has filed 11 court cases against her husband, it’s hard to be a middle-aged, childless woman whose husband has left her. Her ferocity is in constant battle with her fear. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91H
December 10, 2019
Baljit Kaur's police uniform is laid out on her bed at her staff quarters, where she works as an Assistant...
Sirhind, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Baljit Kaur's police uniform is laid out on her bed at her staff quarters, where she works as an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) for Punjab Police in Fatehgarh Sahib, Sirhind, Punjab, India, March 25, 2019. Baljit Kaur lives two lives. In the first, she's a policewoman, composed and authoritative in a pressed uniform and red lipstick. In the second, she's an ageing bride, abandoned by her husband and sleeping under sheets printed with red hearts.

"I never imagined a woman of my age would end up like this," she says. "I thought my life would be different." REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91M
December 10, 2019
Baljit Kaur, 43, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, sits next to her mother...
Khara, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Baljit Kaur, 43, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, sits next to her mother on a bed on the verandah at her Mother's house in the village Khara, Punjab, India, March 24, 2019. "We are like dead bodies walking. We have no place in society. We can't live and we can't even die," said Kaur, who works as an assistant sub inspector for the Punjab police. Kaur's mother passed away in May 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U929
December 10, 2019
Sarbjeet Kaur sews a garment at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March 31, 2019. Sarbjeet Kaur's...
GURDASPUR, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Sarbjeet Kaur sews a garment at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March 31, 2019. Sarbjeet Kaur's husband stopped sending money for his daughter's school fees in 2016, with three months left in the term. Sarbjeet sold her sofa and two cupboards so she could finish.

Last year, she sold the gold earrings her parents had given to her daughter -- again, for school fees, this time at her new, cheaper school.

"I'm living a double life," Sarbjeet says, crying as she explains that she couldn't tell her parents she had sold the earrings, so she said she had lost them.

Sarbjeet married Daler Singh in 2008. It wasn't until she was pregnant that he talked of going abroad, she says. Her brother had gone to Italy, and it was eight years before he came back for a visit. She said no.

He told her: "'There is nothing here. There are no jobs, no money. Whatever job you do, you don't make money.'" She eventually agreed. When her family got angry, she replied that Singh would never lie to her or leave her. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91U
December 10, 2019
Sarbjeet Kaur's mother gives money to Kaur to pay for her daughter Ekampreet's school fees at their house...
MUKERIAN, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Sarbjeet Kaur's mother gives money to Kaur to pay for her daughter Ekampreet's school fees at their house in Mukerian, Punjab, India, March 23, 2019. Singh went to South America first, then Mexico, Sarbjeet says. She sold her jewelry for almost $5,000 to help him cross into the United States in late 2010, she says, and borrowed $3,600 from her parents to help him enter Canada four years later. She wanted her daughter, Ekampreet, to study in Canada, so she pawned her cousins', aunts' and friends' jewelry for $700, too.

He did send money back, but only for his family, she says. "'Don't worry,' she says he told her, 'my one-month salary will buy your jewelry back and I'll pay back your parents, too.'"

She shows pictures of him posing beside fancy cars on Facebook; she knows he was actually working as a gas station attendant. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91T
December 10, 2019
Ekampreet, 10, laughs with her mother Sarbjeet Kaur at their house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March...
GURDASPUR, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Ekampreet, 10, laughs with her mother Sarbjeet Kaur at their house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March 24, 2019. Kaur and her daughter live at their in-laws house after the court granted permission for them to stay there. In 2015, Sarbjeet's husband asked for a divorce, saying he needed a paper marriage to a Canadian woman so he could stay while the government processed his refugee application.

When Sarbjeet confronted the new woman in a series of audio messages on Facebook Messenger, the other woman said she would also fight.

"'You have a daughter,' she said. 'I have a son.'"

Sarbjeet's husband, Daler Singh, called her description of events "fake." He says he was 17 -- a minor -- when he married her, and that they have now been separated for a decade. He says he has given her money and property but didn't give any further details or respond to specific questions. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91O
December 10, 2019
Ekampreet, 10, gets ready to go to school at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, April 1, 2019. When...
GURDASPUR, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Ekampreet, 10, gets ready to go to school at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, April 1, 2019. When Ekampreet was 3, Sarbjeet tried to commit suicide by drinking rat poison. Five years later, she tried again by slitting her wrists. She went twice to a hospital in Amritsar for depression.

Now, she says, she is stronger. In March, Sarbjeet, applied to have Singh's passport impounded. Satwinder, whom she met late last year, helped. Eventually, the passport office called to say it was done.

When asked about her father, Ekampreet says only that she wants to ask him what she did wrong and why he left her. Shuffling through a stack of pictures, she comes across a wedding photo of her parents, her mother in a bright red and gold sari. She quickly buries it in the looked-at pile. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U922
December 10, 2019
Sarbjeet Kaur threads the eyebrows of a customer at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March 31,...
GURDASPUR, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Sarbjeet Kaur threads the eyebrows of a customer at her house in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U925
December 10, 2019
A closeup of the dress that Baljit Kaur rented for her wedding is shown in Rajpura, Punjab, India, March...
Rajpura, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
A closeup of the dress that Baljit Kaur rented for her wedding is shown in Rajpura, Punjab, India, March 26, 2019. "We are like dead bodies walking. We have no place in society. We can't live and we can't even die," said Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U926
December 10, 2019
Baljit Kaur who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reads a holy scripture at a...
Sirhind, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Baljit Kaur who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reads a holy scripture at a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) in Fatehgarh Sahib, Sirhind, Punjab, India, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92K
December 10, 2019
Palwinder Kaur (left) and Satwinder Kaur (right) speak to a woman who says she has been abandoned by...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Palwinder Kaur (left) and Satwinder Kaur (right) speak to a woman who says she has been abandoned by her husband, in the village of Toosa, south of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92E
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, speaks on the phone as...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, speaks on the phone as she sits with her family in the courtyard of her house in the village of Toosa, south of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91N
December 10, 2019
Manjit Singh, the Station House Officer at the NRI (non-resident Indian) police Station, poses for a...
GURDASPUR, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Manjit Singh, the Station House Officer at the NRI (non-resident Indian) police Station, poses for a photograph as Sarabjeet waits for a victim (not pictured), who had come to lodge a complaint against her NRI husband, who she says has abandoned her, in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India, April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92M
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, talks on her mobile phone...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, talks on her mobile phone inside a cab, while heading to Nawanshahr from Toosa, south of Ludhiana in Punjab, India, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U927
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, arrives for a court hearing...
JAGRAON, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, arrives for a court hearing in the lower court in Jagron, Punjab, India, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U928
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reacts during a court hearing...
JAGRAON, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reacts during a court hearing after a judge postponed the trial, as her in-laws got a stay order over the warrant of possession of the house, in the lower court at Jagraon, Punjab, India, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92D
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, speaks to her cousin who...
JAGRAON, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, speaks to her cousin who works as a typist outside Jagraon's court house, before a hearing in Jagraon, Punjab, India, April 22, 2019
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92I
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur bids goodbye to her father who leaves for a short trip at her house in the village of...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur bids goodbye to her father who leaves for a short trip at her house in the village of Toosa, south of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92O
December 10, 2019
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, talks on the phone as she...
JAGRAON, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Satwinder Kaur, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, talks on the phone as she travels to a court hearing in Jagraon, Punjab, India, April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92A
December 10, 2019
A man, woman and child ride past on a motorbike in Ludhiana, Punjab, India, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree...
Ludhiana, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
A man, woman and child ride past on a motorbike in Ludhiana, Punjab, India, March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U920
December 10, 2019
Women, who say they have been abandoned by NRI (non-resident Indian) husbands, take part in an organised...
Jalandhar, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Women, who say they have been abandoned by NRI (non-resident Indian) husbands, take part in an organised protest in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91Z
December 10, 2019
Neelam, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reacts at an organised protest...
Jalandhar, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Neelam, who says her NRI (non-resident Indian) husband abandoned her, reacts at an organised protest in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U91W
December 10, 2019
Sarbjeet Kaur's father feeds milk to a calf at their house in Mukerian, Punjab, India, March 23, 2019....
MUKERIAN, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Sarbjeet Kaur's father feeds milk to a calf at their house in Mukerian, Punjab, India, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
INDIA-WOMEN/RUNAWAY-HUSBANDS
RTS2U92B
December 10, 2019
Ekampreet gives rose petals to her mother Sarbjeet Kaur at Kaur's parent's house in Mukerian, Punjab,...
MUKERIAN, India
Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Ekampreet gives rose petals to her mother Sarbjeet Kaur at Kaur's parent's house in Mukerian, Punjab, India, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
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