ABSTRACT

The Case of Gudiya In September 2004, during the earlier phase of my eldwork, the Indian media was once again xated on ‘the plight of Muslim women’ when the case of Gudiya made national headlines (see Chowdhury and Raman 2004). Gudiya, a young woman from a small village in western Uttar Pradesh, found herself at the centre of a national scandal. Her husband, Arif, who had been missing for ve years and had been ocially declared a ‘deserter’ by the Indian army, returned as a ‘war hero’ after being held as a Prisoner of War (PoW) in Pakistan. Gudiya had since remarried and was expecting a child with her second husband, Tauq. On hearing about her case, the media quickly descended on her village, and the Zee News channel managed to bring Gudiya, the two men she had married and her family to their studios in Delhi to hold a live panchayat1 on national television, where their collective fate would be decided. e host of the programme entitled Kiski Gudiya? (‘Whose Gudiya?’2) began by dramatically announcing that Gudiya’s case would be decided that very night and the decision would have to be taken according to the rules of shariat (Rajalakshmi 2004). e panchayat, which was composed of Muslim clerics from her village, ruled that despite the fact that she was pregnant with her second husband’s child and had been unaware of her rst husband’s whereabouts for the past ve years, Gudiya was still legally married to her rst husband. ey ordered her to return to her rst husband and pronounced the second marriage invalid, thus sealing her fate. In this entire process, Gudiya became a national spectacle.