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Dowry-busting bride wins star status

From CNN correspondent Suhasini Haidar

Nisha Sharma's case has attracted worldwide attention.
Nisha Sharma's case has attracted worldwide attention.

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- A young Indian girl has become a celebrity for resisting her in-laws demands for a dowry and sending her groom to jail for it.

Since her case first came to light, 21-year-old Nisha Sharma has received a series of awards, a slew of admiring suitors -- and even some copycats, with reports of at least 12 other cases of brides busting their would-be in laws.

Despite being banned 40 years ago, most Indian marriages still include a dowry, of expensive gifts and cash that the bride's family has to give the groom's family -- sometimes wiping out their life savings in the process.

Nisha's refusal to bow to that demand, even as guests gathered for her wedding, has turned her into a national icon.

Among those who followed Nisha's lead was 19-year old Farzaana, the daughter of a poor Muslim family from New Delhi.

She was already married, and all set to go to her husband's home when, according to her family, her husband's family demanded more than a thousand dollars in cash.

Rather than pay up her family called the police.

Farzaana's tearful, but says she has no regrets.

Farzaana (left) has followed Nisha's example and reported on dowry-demanding in-laws.
Farzaana (left) has followed Nisha's example and reported on dowry-demanding in-laws.

In the past few weeks, newspapers have reported at least a dozen similar cases where brides have sent their grooms packing.

Women's rights activist Ranjana Kumari says the trend has come too late for tens of thousands of Indian women who have been killed, sometimes burnt to death for not bringing enough dowry.

But, she says, there is hope.

"With education the girls now are finding the confidence to reject a life of indignity and torture," she says.

Trendsetter Nisha, herself a software engineering student, agrees.

She is planning to use the cash awards she has just won to set up a school for girls, because she wants them to have the confidence to turn down unfair dowry demands.

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