There has been a surge in the number of men kidnapped in rural India and forced to marry at gunpoint.

According to official figures, there were 2,529 cases of akadwa shaadi, or "groom kidnapping", in the impoverished Bihar region, up from 1,337 in 2009.

The practice is unofficially sanctioned, with the cost of bridal dowries often financially crippling for impoverished families.

Anand Kumar Singh, the police chief of Madhepura district, told Al Jazeera that groom kidnappings remained common: "It is mainly prevalent among Bhumihar and Yadava castes," he said.

The cost of a dowry for a woman marrying, for example, a doctor from a wealthier family can be up to 400,000 rupees, or £4,000, while the dowry for a marriage into a lower caste Yadava family can be 100,000 rupees.

In the village of Khotiya, which is dominated by the Yadava caste, it is believed that half of all grooms were forced into marriage at gunpoint.

Dharmendra Kumar, 16, was celebrating exam results with friends in Khagaria on 26 December when he was kidnapped.

"I was drinking liquor with some relatives. After I'd had a few, they drugged me, stuck a pistol into my ribs and forced me into a jeep," he told the Times.

He said that he was taken to a village 40 miles away and introduced to a girl.

"They put us together for a few days and … we slept together," he said. The two were then forced to marry six days later, with some of those attending carrying guns.

Kumar and the girl remained married, and the two families are currently negotiating a dowry.

Journalist Kanhaiya Bhelari told the paper that the practice started in the 1970s, when an impoverished farmer struggling to find a dowry kidnapped a man to marry his daughter. Later, criminal gangs became involved, offering targeted kidnapping of grooms in exchange for money.

Neeraj, 36, was kidnapped when travelling to a friend's marriage and forced to marry a girl he had never met at gunpoint.

He managed to escape, after telling the girl's family that he was going to his parents to tell them he had found a wife.

He said he was still in contact with the girl.

"She's an intelligent girl and I like her but I don't want to be forced into marrying her like that," he said.