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Archives for : Minority Rights

Hadiya wins her Freedom – SC Restores Hadiya’s Marriage, Sets Aside Kerala HC Order  #Goodnews

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition related to the Kerala High Court’s annulment of marriage of Hadiya, an alleged victim of ‘love jihad’.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition related to the Kerala High Court’s annulment of marriage of Hadiya, an alleged victim of ‘love jihad’.(Photo: Liju Joseph/The Quint)

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 8 March, set aside Kerala High Court’s annulment of Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jahan.

The bench, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, directed the National Investigation Agency to continue their probe into the alleged case of ‘love jihad’ without ‘interfering into Hadiya’s marriage’.

Responding to the court’s direction, Maninder Singh, appearing for the investigation agency, submitted to the court that ‘the probe is almost complete.’

The bench, also comprising of Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, put up the matter for order after lunch on the plea filed by a man, who claimed to be the woman’s husband, challenging a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with her.

Earlier this week, the father of the woman, who is alleged to be a victim of love jihad, claimed before the apex court that his efforts prevented his daughter from being transported to “extremist-controlled territories” of Syria to be used as a “sex slave or a human bomb”.

In a fresh affidavit, KM Asokan said that his daughter Hadiya was a “vulnerable adult” and she “abjectly surrendered herself to complete strangers who adopted her into their fold, offering her shelter and protection and further imparted religious indoctrination in an isolated environment”.

He was responding to an affidavit filed by his daughter, who had earlier told the apex court that she had willingly converted to Islam and wanted to remain a Muslim.

In his affidavit, Asokan said he cannot remain a mute spectator if his daughter is abducted and taken to extremist-controlled territories for being used as a sex slave or a human bomb.

The matter came to the fore when Shafin Jahan, who claimed to be the husband of Hadiya, had challenged a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with her and sending the woman to her parents’ custody.

The apex court had on 22 February questioned whether the high court could nullify a marriage between “vulnerable adults” after the father of the 25-year-old woman had justified the order.

In an affidavit filed before the top court, Hadiya said that she had married Jahan on her own will and sought the court’s permission to “live as his wife”.

She also claimed that her husband was wrongly portrayed as a terrorist by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and he had nothing to do with the Middle East-based terror group ISIS.

On 27 November last year, the apex court had freed Hadiya from her parents’ custody and sent her to college to pursue her studies, even as she had pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband.

The high court had annulled the marriage terming it as an instance of ‘love jihad’, following which Jahan had approached the apex court.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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Uttar Pradesh – 25 year old lynched over child lifting rumours #WTFnews

A participant shows a placard during a silent protest Not in My Name

A migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district, who was allegedly lynched by a mob on February 3 on a rumour of being a child lifter, died at Sawai Man Singh hospital in Jaipur

A migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district, who was allegedly lynched by a mob on February 3 on a rumour of being a child lifter, died at Sawai Man Singh hospital in Jaipur on Wednesday.

According to the police, 25-year-old, Mohammad Faisal Siddique, a resident of Sujatganj district in Kanpur, was taking his friend Aslam Ansari’s two-year-old daughter to market to buy her chocolates. It was then when some people suspected that he had abducted the girl child.

A video went viral that showed Siddique tied up to an electric pole and being beaten up mercilessly by a mob of around 50 people. There were voices heard from mob saying that child lifter should be killed. Battling for his life for 16 days, 25-year-old migrant worker succumbed to his injuries

On social media, a video went viral that showed Siddique tied up to an electric pole and being beaten up mercilessly by a mob of around 50 people. There were voices heard from mob saying that child lifter should be killed. Battling for his life for 16 days, 25-year-old migrant worker succumbed to his injuries.

Sub-inspector Mukut Bihari of Vishwakarma police station said that a case was registered under IPC Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide). “We have arrested two people in connection with the matter – Nishant Modi and Mahendra. Mahendra has a prior criminal record,” sub inspector said. A senior police office confirmed that they will add murder charges to the existing FIR.

Faisal was living in a rented accommodation in Vishwakarma Industrial Area in Jaipur and worked as a slipper contractor. Aslam Ansari said that his daughter was fond of Faisal as he used to buy chocolates and biscuits for her. At 11 am in the morning I was told by someone that my daughter was found abandoned near Gautam Vihar road. I rushed to the spot and found that my daughter was standing alone, and Siddiqui was being beaten up by the mob. I immediately called the police and Faisal was taken to the hospital.

According to news reports, an FIR was registered against Siddiqui for assault and an intent to outrage of modesty by a woman. The woman was allegedly among those who have accused Faisal of abducting the girl child on February 3. She told the police that she suspected Faisal of molesting 2-year-old child.

Meanwhile, Siddique’s younger brother, Mohammad Saif alleged that the doctor of the hospital was trying to discharge the victim even though he was critical. Sawai Man Singh’s Hospital authorities denied the accusations

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I converted to Islam of my own will, want to live with husband Shafin’: Hadiya in SC

“Even now I am under police surveillance. I most humbly pray that my entire liberty may kindly be restored to me,” Hadiya said in her affidavit.

In an affidavit filed on Tuesday in the Supreme Court, Kerala Muslim convert Hadiya said that she embraced Islam of her own free will and wants to continue to live as a Muslim.

Describing the circumstances under which she converted to Islam from Hinduism, she said that she had been kept under prolonged confinement without the freedom she is entitled to.

“Even now I am under police surveillance. I most humbly pray that my entire liberty may kindly be restored to me,” she said.

In her affidavit filed through her lawyer Marzook, Hadiya said that Shafin Jahan is her legally wedded husband and that she wants to continue to live as his wife. She reiterated that she converted to Islam and married Shafin of her own free will.

Hadiya stated that her father Asokan is under the influence of certain sections of people “who were trying to use him”. “Otherwise, I do not see how my father who is an atheist would object to me changing my religion or marrying someone from a different religion,” she stated.

Hitting out at the police and those who are trying to influence her father, she said that “the baseless and malicious propaganda being made by the investigating agency and by the evil forces behind my father that I am mentally not sound, that I have connections with ISIS and the media trials on these allegations would detrimentally affect my future and career as a doctor, causing irreparable heavy injuries and loss to me.”

On conversion

In her affidavit, filed after the SC made her a respondent in the case, Hadiya pointed out that although her father is an atheist, she followed her mother’s belief “since I hailed from such a background and village, where there is no Muslim, to my knowledge, and Islam was not at all known to me in my childhood”.

In 2010, she became friends with two girls – Jaseena and Faseena, at her Salem college and said that she was “impressed by their good behaviour and character”. In 2013, she decided to accept Islam because she was “impressed by the religion”. Eventually, she started performing namaz in her own room.

Narrating an incident, she said once when her father saw her performing namaz at home, he warned her against Islam saying that it is the “religion of terrorism”.

According to the affidavit, this forced Hadiya to keep her newly embraced faith a secret. However, differences between Hadiya and her parents grew stronger and the situation became unbearable for her when in late 2015, after her grandfather passed away, her relatives forced her to perform Hindu rituals.

“Being a Muslim who believes in monotheism which is the basic pillar of my faith and not practicing any kind of idol worship, this incident caused deep mental agony to me and I got determined to disclose my Islamic faith and to become a Muslim officially,” she said.

Following this, Hadiya left home of her own free will on January 2, 2016 and went to Jaseena’s house in Malappuram district.

On March 21, 2016, she completed her Islamic course in an institution under the Markazul Hidaya Sathyasarani Educational and Charitable Trust.

On her marriage to Shafin Jahan

In Januray 2016, Hadiya’s father Asokan moved the Kerala HC with a habeas corpus petition. However, this petition was disposed of after Hadiya said she had left home of her own will to study Islam.

The court had then allowed her to stay with Sainaba, a social worker from Malappuram, who helped her get on with her Islamic studies and also provided her a place to stay. However, later Hadiya’s father accused Sainaba of forcibly converting his daughter.

While Hadiya was residing with Sainaba at the latter’s house, the affidavit says she expressed her desire to have a family to Sainaba. Hadiya asked Sainaba to find a “matching, Muslim bridegroom” for her. On April 7, 2016, Hadiya signed up on the matrimonial website “waytonikah”.

According to her, out of the 50 responses she received on the website, one was a proposal from Shafin. “We spoke to each other over the phone and communicated with each other by WhatsApp sharing photos and eventually decided to proceed further for marriage. He came from his workplace in Muscat and thereafter visited me in November 2016”, she said.

The marriage was solemnised on December 12, 2016 at Sainaba’s house.

On December 20, 2016, Hadiya said that she appeared before a local registrar along with Shafin and submitted an application for registration of the marriage. “However, after the hearing on December 21, the division bench of the Kerala HC passed an interim order directing the police to confine me in SNV Sadanam Hostel”.

Later, in an order on May 24, 2017, the Kerala HC annulled Hadiya’s wedding to Shafin, calling it a scam and sent her to the custody of her parents.

House arrest

Hadiya has accused her parents of keeping her under house arrest after she was taken back home, following the Kerala HC order annulling her wedding to Shafin in May 2017.

Hadiya affirmed that she was kept under house arrest at her parent’s home and was not allowed to meet or interact with anyone. However, she said that several people including BJP State President Kummanam Rajasekharan and social activist Rahul Easwar visited her. She also alleged that people from Shivashakti Yoga Centre in Ernakulam visited her and “tortured” her in the name of counselling, and even pressurised her to leave Islam.

Hadiya has also accused her parents of mixing drugs in her food. She said that her mother used to insist that she eat food even while she was fasting during the Ramzan month. She said that the police who were deployed at her residence had in fact refused to hear her out when she complained that she had caught her mother mixing drugs in her food.

“I informed the police about my mother’s deed but they were reluctant to hear me or take any step to resolve the issue. From that day onwards, I began to prepare my own food,” she stated.

The police maintained a visitors’ book in which it took down the names of those who came to visit her. “If that visitors’ book is verified, those who compelled and threatened me to convert back can be identified,” Hadiya said.

While people including activists, media persons and even the Chairman of State Women’s Rights Commission were not allowed to meet Hadiya, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) met Hadiya at her house. In her affidavit, Hadiya said that whatever the Chairperson of NCW told the media after meeting her was false.

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Shambhu Lal Raigar makes videos from jail #WTFnews

Jodhpur, Feb 19 Two videos purportedly shot by Shambhu Lal Raigar, an accused in a murder case, from inside a jail here have gone viral, wherein he claims threat to his life from an inmate and justifies his killing of a labourer from West Bengal over “love jihad“.


Raigar, who is lodged in the Central Jail here after he hacked and burnt to death Mohammad Afrazul from West Bengal in December last year, named the inmate as Vasudev, an accused in the NDPS Act.


Vasudev hails from West Bengal, claimed Raigar.

In one of the videos, Raigar claims that the issue of “love jihad” has become “serious” and accuses the West Bengal government of not doing enough about it.

Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said they were investigating how Raigar got access to a mobile phone inside the jail.

“It would be looked into how Raigar got access to a mobile phone and how he made the videos. We have lodged an FIR and are investigating the matter,” he said.

Raigar had killed Afrazul while, in a video, ranting against “love jihad”, a term used by sections of Hindu activists to describe marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men.

In the latest video, Raigar said he was “infuriated” over a “jihadist comment”, targeting Hindu women, and that was why he had killed Afrazul.

The Jodhpur Central Jail administration said it had launched an “intense search operation” to find out how Raigar was able to make the videos using a cell phone.According to a preliminary investigation, Raigar could have used the cell phone of another inmate, but the jail authorities have failed to recover a mobile from the said inmate.

Jail Superintendent Vikram Singh said they were investigating the matter and had also reviewed the security of Raigar.

Singh said the presence of mobile phones inside the jail was a “serious matter” and added that the prison authorities were trying to find out how the phones were making their way into the prison.

Raigar was arrested from Rajsamand district of Rajasthan.

His act of killing Afrazul and latter filming the act with the help of his teenage nephew had created a nationwide outrage.

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BAVRA MAAN DEKHNE CHALA EK SAPNA: Karenge Politics, Karenge Pyaar!

by- Pinjra Tod

This update comes somewhat late, but it took us time to recover from the exhaustion of the last 2 weeks and to absorb the beautiful experience that was the public meeting on the afternoon of 15th February, as we together sought to deconstruct dominant ideas of what it means to love, towards building an imagination of what radical love and politics has been and could be about, a love that challenges, a love that demands a fundamental political and ideological engagement with the self and with processes of collectivisation. All the speeches last Thursday were tremendously powerful and moving, as the speakers wove together in an amazing manner, the complexities, challenges and struggles of what it means to love in our times.

Akhil Katyal, the ‘shayar’, disrupted with humour and irony the seriousness with which we tend to build our fantasies of love and desire, challenging with lightness and irreverence the masculinity and violence that marks our encounters of love. Ranu Kulshrestha and Asif Iqbal shared with us the beautiful story of their love that defied the diktats of religion, to talk about how through the struggle and power of their love, they arrived at their politics, which led them to start DHANAK, an organisation that provides support to inter-caste and inter-religious couple. As they said in the end of their speech, “pyaar kiya toh darna kya, jaat dharm ka karna kya?’.

We were also joined in the meeting by Ankit Saxena’s cousin, Ashish Duggal (R.I.P Ankit SaxeNa) and his friends, “the Awara Boys”. Responding to our slogans of ‘Ankit tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge’, he urged us to fight not just for Ankit, but for every person who has dared to break free of the many pinjras that are imposed on us by society to restrict who we can and cannot love. He urged us to ‘act’, to not make the ‘mistake’ that he made of waiting for a ‘personal tragedy’ to find the resolve to fight against the politics of hate, so that we can together build a nation ‘jaha pyaar par bandisheh nahi hogi”, where those like Ankit, Manoj, Babli, Shankar and many others will live, and not be ‘punished’ with death.

Comrade Urmila’s speech was a powerful declaration of a transgressive love, a moment of intimate sharing and joy. She also talked about her journey of finding non-normative communities and friendships, her journey of ‘coming to’ politics — ending her speech with a call to support the campaign for release of her comrades, two Pricol workers who have been unjustly sentenced to ‘double’ life imprisonment by the courts.

Comrade Ramniwas Kush shared stories from the Maruti workers’ struggle, poignantly illustrating how our desires are so embedded in the ‘bazaar’, in the aspirations and imaginations that capitalism produces in us–“kyun tumhare sapno meh rajkumar toh aata hai, par kabhi koi mazdoor nahin aaega?”. He spoke of how capitalism fundamentally builds mistrust, and it is this mistrust that marks institutions such as marriage, that are considered to be epitome of the fulfilment of love — love is about trust, if there is trust, what is the need to marry? It is capitalism that destroys love and builds envy and competition, and whether our practice of love reinforces or challenges capitalist structures, has to be a political choice for us. As a worker, it is in his experiences of collectively fighting and organising with other workers against the oppression and exploitation that marks their everyday lives, it is in his experiences of building systems of care and support beyond the family, it is in the experiences of the workers movement taking responsibility for the loved ones of the workers who languish in jail on false charges — that Ramniwas has found the radical potential of love, a love that is collective, a love that is revolutionary.

Finally, it was to the fading light of dusk, that Dhiren Borisa opened himself to us, and in the process, opened us all to memories of our deepest vulnerabilities and fears, our insecurities and yearnings, our anger and desperation, the ‘mazburis’ and the ‘pachida-pan’ that marks our experiences of love and pain, so structured by our locations and histories of marginalisation, even as we seek everyday to escape, forget and fight against them. From stories of his grandmother’s imagination of the sea beside Delhi to her fear of loved ones ‘leaving’ for the city and not coming back ‘alive’, from stories of who the city nurtures with fulfilment, possibility and love and who it disappoints and rejects, to our universities where those who do not ‘belong’ fight an everyday battle for survival and dignity, Dhiren’s poetic verse unmasked the many wounds that we carry within us in the quest for love and stardust, wounds that are marked by the violence of caste, class, gender, race, sexuality and much more — wounds whose healing we must together seek.

Due to certain other commitments, Grace Banu and members of Ektara Collective were unable to make it to the meeting and we terribly missed their presence. We will be uploading the videos of all the speeches, songs, slogans and poetry over the coming week, as its impossible to do justice in words to what transpired in the gathering 

anarkali tere sapno ko hum manzil tak pohchayenge
tum kitno ko chunwaogey ge, hum har diwar girayenge!



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Rape As Genocide: ‘Born Together’ On Children Born of Rape in 1971 War

“Who am I? I do not exist because I was never born.”

 During the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat e Islami raped between two and four hundred thousand Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. Children were born of these deliberate rapes used as part of the war strategy.

What happened to these children? Were they killed soon after they were born? Were they given up to orphanages or did they lead the lives of social outcasts as their birth was never legitimised and never would? Since the Pakistani military force were all Muslim and the raped young women came from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds, what religion could they be said to belong to? What nationality?

All these questions are raised very pertinently in a film called Born Together which was screened in the International Competition section of the Mumbai International Film Festival of Documentary, Short and Animation Films and has been produced by Ekattor Media Ltd and Liberation War Museum.

Much-awarded Bangladeshi filmmaker Shabnam Ferdousi has made a very unique documentary on three children born in the same nursing home where she was, on January 14, 1972. She walked on different paths of life before settling down in audio-visual media.

The question that constantly worried her was that around a dozen or so kids born of rape on the same day in the same nursing home. “I was born at Holy Family Hospital, and 12 more babies were born in that hospital on that very day. Later, I came to know five of them were war babies. Then an idea stuck me that I could have been one of the war babies. I got obsessed with the idea and began a new journey … a journey in search of my birth-mates.” The journey was far from simple and straightforward. It was riddled with blocks along the way as more than four decades had passed and records, specially of illegitimate births of babies born of rape were hardly taken care of.

She visited some offices and people who were involved in recording the data of births during that time and even visited the nursing home she was born in. She got to know that among the 13 babies delivered that day, around five werechildren of war.

The film maps her journey and her discovery of three of them scattered across different parts of the world, now grown up and bitter. If the present of Shabnam throughout the film seem narcissistic, you begin to understand why she made her presence so strongly felt. Juxtaposed against the three young men and women she encounters along the journey and interacts with on an intimate level, her very sophisticated, elite and modern presence offers a tragic and dramatic contrast to those three which make the film more telling than it would have been if she would have remained away from the screen.

“In my journey, I found two, a man and a woman within Bangladesh. One is Monwara Clarke, reared in the furthest corner of the globe by Canadian parents. She came to Dhaka looking for a birth certificate. The other is Shudhir, ashamed of being a “bastard” child in the community, grew up in a remote corner in the country avoiding public eyes. His mother is a “Birangana”, a woman who was raped by men of the Pakistani army in 1971.” The word “Birangana” translates into “brave female soldier” in English.

Why call a forced victim of rape a ‘soldier” at all”? Did she choose to become one or want to become one? She was forced into this life of ignominy and ostraciszation which also affected her child born of the rape? What is the use of a title that does not take care of the social and financial problems the woman has to face all her life? The title does not mean anything except a living irony of the tragic life she is forced to lead.

Shabnam also managed to trace another “Birangana” mother and her daughter. This brave daughter gave testimony in the War Crimes Tribunal. All three children have born the brunt of the Bangladesh Liberation War though they were not even born then. Shudhir could never go to school because of the family lived as social outcasts in a remote area. He is married and lives with his mother and wife. He manages to eke out a bare existence by driving a van rickshaw while his wife manages the home. “I consider myself a Hindu because my mother is Hindu and I have no clue who my father is or was.” He had a love marriage and that is why he has a family life. His mother, the so-called “Birangana” looks expressionlessly at the world outside not exactly what she is looking out or looking for.

She tells Shabnam, “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times. So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist. Now, all that seems to have happened in the distant past. The so-called ‘compensation’ is something I am not aware of and life goes on….” Son Sudhir is a handsome young man, in both body and looks. But he is very shy and an introvert who refused to open up easily. When probed a bit, he admits that his life has been a cursed one. He had to leave school for two reasons, his mother could not afford the fees and the children in school ragged him with his illegitimate status.

The other young woman she met could meet her only in the farms and fields because she had no permanent shelter to live in. She was married once but her husband left her when he came to know the truth of her birth. Her other legally produced brothers do not wish to have anything to do with her and her mother is in no position to offer her even hope. But she is used to this wandering existence, the poverty, the social ignominy and the anonymity of her life. She smiles shyly and confesses that all this humiliation does not shake her anymore because she is quite used to it. “I used to feel very pained in the beginning but then, I knew this was a part of my life,” she says. Shabnam offers to take her into her family but she refuses, knowing that it might at best, be only a temporary solution because the baggage of illegitimacy added to lack of a proper family will travel with her wherever she goes.

Monwara Clarke offers another tragic story. She is a child born of rape who fell within the then-Independent Bangladesh’s programme of giving some hundreds of children up for adoption to other countries and she happens to one among them taken in for adoption by a Canadian couple. She does not know a word of Bengali and converses only in English. Shabnam happened to meet her in Dhaka when she had come down to get her birth certificate.

“Who am I? I do not exist because I was never born,” she says her anger so palpable that you can almost reach out and touch it. She laments that her own country denied her not only legitimacy but also her birth, her nationhood and her language and culture. “My husband left me when he knew who I really was. Am I responsible for being born? Is my country not liable to look after me when everything happened there? I do not even have a birth certificate and have to come down here to fetch it,” she says.

It is a touching film and you get so sucked into the narrative and these tragic stories that you hardly notice the aesthetics of the film. The cinematographic space moves along with the director from one place to another, from Shudhir’s ramshackle hut to the fields to meet the other woman again and again and again and then dash into Monwara when she comes to Dhaka. The film did not win any prize but the film will surely win the hearts of those who watched it from beginning to end.

It would be in the fitness of things to sum up with what Lisa Sharlach writes about rape in “Rape as Genocide: Bangladesh, the Former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda”. New Political Science. 1 (22): 89. “It is also rape unto death, rape as massacre, rape to kill and to make the victims wish they were dead. It is rape as an instrument of forced exile, rape to make you leave your home and never want to go back. It is rape to be seen and heard and watched and told to others: rape as spectacle. It is rape to drive a wedge through a community, to shatter a society, to destroy a people. It is rape as genocide–1971-War

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Sardar VallabhBhai Patel – A Legacy appropriated and distorted

Neha Dabhade

Historical figures are complex and shaped by the context they lived out of. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is no exception. Vallabhbhai Patel popularly known as the “indomitable iron man” of India is credited with unifying India when India was a cluster of numerous princely states at the time of independence and Patel was the first home minister of independent India. During the tumultuous times of the partition and subsequently the assassination of Gandhi, the leadership of the country had to guide it through many ups and downs towards a secular democracy that India has evolved into and still evolving. Nehru and Patel along with the others took tough decisions to serve this end. One of them was banning of RSS. Though Patel was instrumental in this decision, he is appropriated and co-opted by the RSS and BJP as one supporting their brand of politics and ideology- Hindutva while Nehru is derided for being weak and responsible for partition. Moreover the narrative that pits Nehru against Patel has gained currency and the two unfairly compared by the right wing which completely obliterates the fact that both leaders had one vision for the country and enjoyed each other’s confidence.

Patel was again brought at the centre stage of public discourse by the Prime Minister recently. “Had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been India’s first Prime Minister, a part of my Kashmir would not have been with Pakistan today” (Ashok, 2018). BJP and RSS have positioned themselves lately as ideological heirs of Patel. PM Modi wants to build ‘statue of unity’ as he refers to Patel and also commemorate his birthday as national unity day. He goes on to add, “There have been attempts to run down Patel, to ensure that the contribution of Patel is forgotten. But Sardar is Sardar, whether any government or any party recognizes his contribution or not but the nation and the youth will not forget him” (Indian Express, 2017). Similarly Venkaiah Naidu also praised Patel. This appropriation is problematic. Appropriation of mass leaders has been a thrust of RSS strategy by distorting historical facts. Similar attempts have been made towards Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. Thus it is imperative to demystify Patel.

Though a lot has been written about Patel and his equation with RSS, keeping the aggressive appropriation of icons like Patel, it is important to repeat and emphasize on the following points. One point to be noted at the very outset is that historical figures are multidimensional and it is difficult to capture them in all their complexity. However one must try to understand Patel in a more nuanced way.

  1. Patel was an admirer of Gandhi. He was pained with the assassination of Gandhi. He was all his life a staunch Congressman though sympathetic to plight of Hindus and Sikhs during the communal violence post and pre partition.
  2. Though he was distrustful towards Muslims in India as a section of the community supported the Muslim League, he as a Home Minister vowed to protect all citizens equally and certainly did not encourage communal violence against Muslims.
  3. Patel was not a supporter of the RSS or endorsed Hindutva politics which is narrow, discriminatory and exclusionist in its outlook.

The right wing is appropriating Patel for a number of reasons. It is no secret that the RSS had no role to play in the freedom struggle of India. Their members were not incarcerated in the prisons or enjoyed following amongst masses due to leaderships in any social movements- peasants, trade unions, women, reform in Hindu personal laws, eradication of caste etc. The freedom struggle represented certain ideas that of equality, pluralism, inclusion and democracy. The struggle was not just against the colonial powers for political power but also for a just and equal society ridden of hierarchies based on caste, religion and class. Patel being a tall leader of Congress can bring this legitimacy to the RSS, give them a respectable face and wider support base. Secondly with constant exaggeration and misrepresenting the differences between Nehru and Patel, the Nehruvian vision of the society and India is sought to be discredited since this vision is completely conflicting and incompatible to that of Hindutva. The Hindu supremacists want to taint this legacy and establish a new social order and deepen the existing hierarchies.

The actions of BJP leaders should be analyzed from this prism. To begin with, it would be interesting to study the views of Patel on RSS itself.

There can be no doubt that the RSS did service to the Hindu Society. In the areas where there was the need for help and organisation, the young men of the RSS protected women and children and strove much for their sake. No person of understanding could have a word of objection regarding that. But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing”.

On the assassination of Gandhi, he expresses his anguish in no uncertain terms.

“All their speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.

As regards the RSS and the Hindu Maha-sabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure”(Zakaria, 2016).

It becomes clear from Patel’s words that he opposed the RSS politics of hatred and targeting of the Muslims. He condemns the assassination of Gandhi and the politics that claimed his life. This is antithetical to the stand of RSS which hasn’t condemned Gandhi’s death but gone to the extent of installing busts and building temples of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhi!

It also speaks volumes on the idea of India nurtured by Patel. Being a staunch congressman and influenced by Gandhi, he understood the contribution of different communities to India. The very fact that Patel skillfully brought as princely states onto one political platform without bloodshed and prevented balkanization gives an insight into his vision for an India which gave space to all- different languages, cultures, religions. Pluralism and democracy were hallmarks of his vision. This vision is again in contrast of a Hindu rashtra where the Hindus are rightful citizens and citizens of other religions merely second class citizens.

However this doesn’t necessarily mean that some of his views were not problematic. He had certain extent of reservations and also distrust about the Muslims. This grew out of the support of a section of Muslims that the Muslim League enjoyed. Naturally it was wrong to paint the whole community with one brush, since large sections of Muslims supported the Congress and rejected the two nation theory. Nonetheless some of his policies have attracted flak. For example the enactment of the Evacuee Property Law, which resulted in the expropriation of their businesses, industries, shops, houses, lands and all such assets, movable and immovable; even Muslims, suspected by the police of intending to go to Pakistan were covered under it. However this law was for political exigency and in response to a similar law enacted by Pakistan. Another policy was the draconian permit system where the Indian Muslims who went to visit Pakistan after 15thAugust 1947, were at a risk of losing their citizenship.

These actions, though questionable, doesn’t make Patel communal or suggests that he supported violence against Muslims or encouraged it for his own political or electoral interests. Manufacturing of violence and communal polarization is a project resorted to by the Hindu supremacists for electoral gains. This distinction is significant but often sought to be blurred by the Hindu supremacists when they co-opt Patel. As a leader who has constitutional duty he was of the opinion that India is a country for all and not a Hindu state and thus all citizens have to be protected. “I do not think it will be possible to consider India as a Hindu state with Hinduism as a state religion. We must not forget that there are other minorities whose protection is our primary responsibility” (Zakaria, Sabrang India, 2016)

This is of course a far cry from the approach of the current government which praises Patel. There is an atmosphere of impunity and encouragement given to vigilantes to target the vulnerable groups like Muslims and Dalits under the name of cow protection. Though the current political dispensation prefers to call the perpetrators of violence as ‘fringe’ elements or criminal elements thereby trivializing their acts of violence, Patel had a different approach as a statesman. There are numerous hate crimes taking place unabashedly with no justice. On the other hand, there were instances where Patel himself went to spots of trouble to quell any violence and took proactive steps to protect the Muslims and punish the criminals. The famous Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in South Delhi was surrounded by some miscreants. He went there himself and clearly instructed the officers to protect the Muslims and take action against the miscreants. Whenever such incidents took place where the Muslim community was harassed or instigated, he said, “If you think that you can go on constantly troubling loyal Muslims because they happen to be Muslims, then our freedom is not worthwhile.

Cow protection is linked to nationalism as is the building of Ram Mandir where the Babri Masjid was demolished. Interestingly Patel had a more balanced approach towards Babri Masjid based on inclusion and dialogue. In 1949, a mob descended upon the Babri Masjid and, after chasing away the muezzin, installed an idol of Ram Lalla in order to claim it as a temple. Within a month of the incident, Patel shot off a letter to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, GB Pant warning that “there can be no question of resolving such disputes by force”.Differing even more starkly from the final outcome of 1992, Patel opined that “such matters can only be resolved peacefully if we take the willing consent of the Muslim community with us” (Daniyal, 2014).

The latest statement of PM on Kashmir where he again pitted Sardar Patel against Nehru is another attempt distorting the legacy which stood for unity, democracy and pluralism. Patel was a mixed bag, multifaceted, complex. He was of course different from Nehru or any other political colleague. Patel had his own temperament, resoluteness and biases. But what he was not was communal and parochial. He espoused the cause of a united India where all citizens had an equal stake.  He shared a vision of an India based on equality with Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. He was a man who had fought for the rights of the farmers at Bardoli and other places. If the Hindu supremacists want to emulate Patel, their starting point should be his efforts for justice and equality. The Hindu supremacists on the other hand at ideologically at loggerheads with Patel by upholding, manipulating and further deepening of caste and religious divides.

The articl e first appeared in (Secular Perspective Feb.16-28, 2018)


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1,611 Days After Muzaffarnagar Riots, Jats Say ‘Allahu Akbar’ and Muslims Chant ‘Har Har Mahadev’

At Mahapanchayats, Jat and Muslim leaders are erasing the past and giving peace a chance.

1,611 Days After Muzaffarnagar Riots, Jats Say 'Allahu Akbar' and Muslims Chant 'Har Har Mahadev'
Similar Mahapanchayats for Jats and Muslims will be held in Lishar, Fugana, Lakh, Mohammadpur Raisingh and Kawal villages. (Uday Singh Rana/
Muzaffarnagar: After the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections last year, Vipin Singh Balyan from Kutba village in western UP’s Muzaffarnagar took a radical decision. Fifty-three Jat youths from his village were implicated in nine separate cases of violence, including murder, in 2013, when communal riots ripped through Muzaffarnagar. He would go to the Muslim victims and beg forgiveness on behalf of Jats.

On the morning of September 8, 2013, communal violence had spread to Kutba and a group of local youths had killed eight Muslims. Scared for their lives, Muslims fled the village and settled in nearby Bara Basti, a cluster of 12 Muslim-dominated villages.

“I decided to go to the house of one Akhtar Hassan, who had great standing among Kutba’s Muslims. I told him I was there to ask for forgiveness. The first time I went there, the Muslims gathered around and started abusing me for what Jats had done to their families. I neither reacted nor tried to defend myself. I left my Jat ego at the door and listened to everything they had to say,” says Balyan. 

The first meeting with Akhtar was a failure. Balyan went again, only to be turned down once more. When the third visit, too, yielded no possibility of a “settlement”, Balyan says he was beginning to lose hope. But then, something unexpected happened.

“After the third meeting, I went home dejected. That very evening, Akhtar called me. He said that a Muslim girl from Kutba was being bothered by local Muslim lads from Bara Basti. He sought help from Jats to put pressure on the police to arrest those miscreants. As their former landlords, Jats thought it was their duty to help a daughter of Kutba, even if she was Muslim. We surrounded the police station and the cops were forced to arrest the accused.”

That incident helped break the ice and gave Balyan and company the chance to move forward with their “peace process”. But it was important to first win back the Muslims’ trust. The culprits of Kutba were Jats, but the Jats of Kakra village had lost their sons at the hands of Muslim rioters from nearby Pur Balyan village. So the Jats of Kutba took a decision. They would first get cases against Muslims withdrawn.


Chaudhary Shakir Ali is the former pradhan of Pur Balyan village. On September 7, 2013, a group of Jats were passing through the mosque in Pur Balyan when they were killed by a Muslim mob.

Shakir Ali, a local landlord, was accused of instigating the violence. “We have centuries-old relations with Jats. But since the riots, I had stopped getting wedding invitations from Hindu households. Sometime during Ramzan last year, during the sehri, Jats from Kutba came to my house and had breakfast with us. Vipin bhai told us that he wanted a settlement of all riot-related cases. That came as a godsend for us. We were willing to fold our hands in front of the Jats of Kakra and beg for forgiveness. And if that helped the Jat boys from Kutba, it would be even better.”

So it was decided. Fifty-three Jat boys from Kutba and 27 Muslims from Pur Balyan were accused of rioting. The two communities would come together to forgive all of them for their “crimes of passion”. After months of negotiations with the victims — the Kutba Muslims who now lived in Bara Basti and the Jats of Kakra — it was decided that a ‘Mahapanchayat’ would be held. Two ‘Mahapanchayats’ were held. But the Muslims had one condition.

“They told us that if there was even a hint of involvement of the BJP, which they blame for the riots, any chance of a settlement would be off the table,” says Vipin, adding, “We agreed to that demand and did not invite any BJP leaders to the Mahapanchayat.”

It complicated matters slightly since Kutba’s twin village Kutbi is the home of BJP MP and former Union minister Sanjeev Balyan. But the Jats did not waver from their promise. The BJP was cut out from the peace settlement.

Chaudhary Shakir Ali, former pradhan of Pur Balyan village

The first two Mahapanchayats, one held at Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence in Delhi and the other one in Muzaffarnagar city, were positive in their tone and tenor, but a settlement had not been reached. The victims wanted to forgive and move on, but the scars of the Muzaffarnagar riots were still fresh. It was the third Panchayat in Bara Basti on February 4, 2018, where they made serious headway.

Sohanvir Balyan, a Jat from Kakra, says, “Our Jat sons had been killed and yet, we went to the Mahapanchayat in Bara Basti. Some Right-wing groups refer to Bara Basti as ‘Mini-Pakistan’ owing to its Muslim majority. But we did something radical there.”

At the Mahapanchayat, Sohanvir took the stage and asked all Jats to chant ‘Allah-O-Akbar!’ (Allah is great). He then turned to Muslims and asked them to chant ‘Har Har Mahadev!’ (Hail Lord Shiva). To Vipin Balyan’s surprise, everyone complied.

“Jats and Muslims have been friends for centuries but I have never seen something like this. I have never seen hardy Jats shout Allah-O-Akbar or seen skull cap-donning Muslims shout ‘Har Har Mahadev’,” he says.

“All of us chimed in. Har Har Mahadev is not an Islamic chant, but we still chimed in,” says Shakir Ali.

The chants set the ball rolling. Chainpal Singh, the son of a local Chaudhary, took the stage with Shakir Ali and the two begged for forgiveness on behalf of their communities. “I folded my palms and said ‘Galati te humari thi, humein maaf kar dijiye (It was our fault, please forgive us),” says Chainpal.

But what clinched the ‘peace deal’ were the pleas of village elders.

Vipin Singh Balyan (on mic) addressing a panchayat

Raghubir Singh, a 90-year-old Jat from Kutba, faced Akhtar Hassan and told him that Jats held no ill-will against Muslims. “The violence was not planned or done out of some enmity. A video was being circulated on mobile phones that showed the head of a Jat being smashed by a rock. It later turned out that the video was from a Taliban camp in Afghanistan. We were fooled and we fell for it. So I begged Akhtar to forgive Jats.”

Shakir Ali had a similar story to tell. “Some BJP leaders had held a Mahapanchayat on September 7 and rumours spread that a Muslim journalist was brutally murdered after it. Some local boys got angry and things got out of hand.”

After the chants and the passionate pleas for forgiveness, Akhtar Hassan, who lost many friends in Kutba, “forgave” the Jats of his village. “I took the families of the victims, all of whom were my friends, into confidence and together, we forgave the Jats of our village. The cases are still going on in the courts but we don’t want to exact any revenge,” he tells News18.

Shakir Ali says, pointing to 40-year-old Assaduddin, “Look at him! He is handicapped and the police said he had murdered someone! Several people, from both sides, were falsely implicated in the riots. Now, they can move on with their lives.”

While these Mahapanchayats were helping Jats and Muslims move towards a resolution, it ruffled feathers within the BJP. Former Union minister and Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Balyan met UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday in Lucknow, along with BJP MLA Sangeet Som and farmer leader Naresh Tikait. He demanded that several cases of arson should be quashed. The leaders claimed that out of 502 cases, around 400 cases were of arson and were mostly bogus just to get the compensation.

As per reports, CM Yogi has assured the leaders of all possible help in this regard after proper consultation. A few days ago, the Yogi government had announced its decision to withdraw 20,000 cases, which were “politically motivated”.

According to local Jats, Sanjeev Balyan’s decision to take Naresh Tikait with him to Lucknow has political significance. As the ‘Chaudhary’ of the Balyan Khap, which dictates social life in 84 Jat villages of Muzaffarnagar, Tikait is essentially Jat royalty. Moreover, he is the son of iconic farmer leader Mahinder Singh Tikait.

A Jat activist from Muzaffarnagar says, “When we met Tikait sahib, we told him that he had been used by Sanjeev Balyan for political ends. When he (Sanjeev Balyan) goes to the CM with the leader of the Balyan Khap, it appears as though all Jats are with him. His position in the BJP gets strengthened.”

Another activist says Jats were “fooled” in 2014 and again in 2017. “Jab tak Jat Jat hai, tab tak Jat ki thaath hai. BJP ne kuch waqt ke liye Jat ko Hindu bana diya tha. (As long as Jats remain Jats, they will remain prosperous. BJP had turned Jats into Hindus for a while).”

Unperturbed by the BJP’s attempts to champion riot-accused Jats, Vipin Balyan says his Mahapanchayats will continue. “We have already resolved the conflicts in Kutba, Kakra and Pur Balyan. Now we will hold similar Mahapanchayats for the Jats and Muslims of Lishar, Fugana, Lakh, Mohammadpur Raisingh and Kawal villages. Jats and Muslims are, once again, united. The days of Baba Tikait (Mahinder Singh Tikait) are back.”

While Muslims who fled their village do not plan to return to live here, signs of communal healing are already visible. “One boy was an ironsmith in our village. A few months ago, he came back to set up his shop, even though he continues to live 5 km away in Bara Basti. We welcomed him with open arms and he was followed by Muslim farm labourers, who are the backbone of Jat landlords. The wounds are healing,” says Balyan.

Shakir Ali agrees. “Recently, I held my son’s Walima (wedding reception) in the village. I had more Hindu guests than Muslims,” he says proudly.

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Shahid Azmi’s Murder -‘ They didin’t kill my son , But also Humanity ‘

Slain lawyer’s mother and brother await start of trial into Azmi’s murder.

For a man who was the face of pro-bono legal defense of terror accused in the country, his family’s wait for justice has been excruciatingly slow. Shahid Azmi was shot dead on February 11, 2010 and eight years, and at least 12 court transfers later, the trial of the four men accused of murdering him is yet to begin.

While two of the accused – Vinod Vichare and Pintu Dhagle – have been granted bail, two others – Devendra Jagtap and Hasmukh Solanki – continue to be behind bars. Shahid’s youngest brother Khalid, who has followed in his brother’s footsteps to become a lawyer, spoke to Mirror about the delay in starting the trial. “The case has been transferred from one court to another at least 12 times in these years. That coupled with the applications filed by the accused added to the delay.”

“After the murder, our local Bar Association decided not to represent any of the accused, as the incident was a shock to us all,” said advocate Ajay Tripathi, one of Shahid’s closest friends, who also got Sanad (licence to practice) on the same day as Shahid. “While this sent a message out, the court was forced to adjourn the case several times, as the accused said they were yet to hire lawyers,” he added. Tripathi fears that it will be the accused who will ultimately benefit from this delay.

Santosh Shetty, a former gangster, was accused of having been given the contract to murder Shahid. However, with little evidence against him, he was discharged in 2014. On a petition filed by the accused, the trial has now been expedited. Even then, it has been over a year since the trial was slated to begin, but there has been no development since. On February 8, 2018, the first witness was supposed to depose, however the court was on leave.

Fighting for accused

Azmi, whose life inspired the critically-acclaimed film Shahid, represented the July 2006 train blasts accused in court. He convinced a trust Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind to bear the legal expenses to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of a section of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) in their case.

His association with the trust continued through the 26/11 trial, where he represented Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, who had been accused of preparing maps used by the terrorists. Shahid’s arguments led to their acquittal in 2010, which was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.

Shahid continued to do his bit for the men he believed were falsely implicated by the investigating agencies, until his last breath on February 11, 2010, when he was shot dead in his office by men who had approached him under the guise of seeking legal advice.

Family still hopeful

“It’s been eight years but there isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t remember him,” says his brother, adding, “We are grateful we aren’t alone while doing this. Several programs are held throughout the country in his memory. There are at least three this year as well.”

His mother Rehana, 62, has not given up hope yet. “The trial may have been delayed but I believe in Allah, justice will be done.” She has one question for her son’s killers, “Can you ever sleep at night?”

Saying that every home deserves a son like Shahid, she said, “Even on the day he was murdered, Shahid rushed to his office because he got a call for help. The people asking for that help then murdered him. Those men didn’t just kill my son, they killed humanity.”

‘Shahid had been to hell and back’

Excerpts from Six Minutes of Terror, The Untold Story of the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts

“Heads turned as a young man wearing sleek black pants and a crisp black coat walked down the corridors of the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions Court. Twenty-nine-year-old Shahid Azmi’smother, Rehana Azmi, would lovingly call him Fardeen Khan, after the Bollywood actor known for his boyish looks and inimitable style. Shahid was a rookie, but no one was surprised when he decided to defend Faisal Shaikh, Muzzammil Shaikh, Naved Khan and Zameer Khan in the 7/11 blasts case. Softspoken, but wildly passionate about his work, Shahid was a lethal combination. After all, he had been to hell and back.

Disillusioned after the 1992 riots, Shahid joined the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front ( JKLF), a militant organization based in the Valley. In only a few months, the fifteen-year-old returned to his mother and three brothers, to their home in Govandi, one of the largest Muslim pockets in Mumbai. Shahid often admitted that he ‘couldn’t be a radical’. But his past followed him to Mumbai. The police detained him and charged him with several sections under the stringent Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in 1994.

Just like under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, a confession under TADA could be used against him. Incorrect entries in the police files showed that the teenager had been apprehended from a Delhi market three days after he was actually detained in Mumbai. Shahid was accused of conspiring to murder Jammu and Kashmir political leader Dr Farooq Abdullah and was imprisoned for five years. In his time at Tihar jail, a maximum security prison in Delhi, Shahid continued his college education from Indira Gandhi National Open University, a distance learning university that has long been a haven for many prisoners hoping to reintegrate into mainstream society after they are released from the prison. Although Shahid had been convicted by the special TADA court, his sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court a year later as the police had no evidence but a ‘confession’ against him.

Shahid’s tryst with the law did not end there. After his release, he simultaneously completed a course in journalism and a degree in law from Kishinchand Chellaram College in Mumbai. At university, Shahid spoke with a slight stammer, talking only when spoken to. As a lawyer, he saw every client as a victim of a communalized police force. He paid the police back for what he had gone through; he broke down every case to the minutest of details, astonishing everyone with his grasp of the art of crossexamination.

As Shahid’s reputation in the courts grew, his family moved from Govandi to a more respectable address at Taximen’s colony in Kurla, near his new office. Shahid’s success was becoming apparent. He worked on cases until late in the night, and helped free more and more people who had been held under the now repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

By 2006, Shahid had more cases than he could handle. His practice had been a massive setback for the Mumbai Police, who often tried brushing the errors in their investigation under the carpet, aided by incompetent lawyers representing the accused, especially in terror-related cases.

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India – Love in face of Lathis


As the world gets ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day, couples share their stories of romance in the age of rabble-rousers

When the bride’s family screams love jihad

Love jihad was a term Muhammad Anas and Nimisha had heard but never thought would apply to them. The two were in college studying mass communication in north Kerala when they became friends in 2008.

“Ours was not a typical campus love story. I was seriously injured in a bus accident in 2009. I’d graduated from college by then. She motivated me a lot when I was bedridden and that’s how love bloomed,” says Anas, who was her senior at Muslim Education Society College in Nilambur near the Western Ghats.

After he recovered, they decided to marry despite opposition from their communities — but it would be three years before they could tie the knot. “Nimisha’s family alleged ‘love jihad’. Some of them are Sangh Parivar members. They insisted this was an attempt at forced conversion,” says Anas, now 33.

Though there were no open threats, the pressure on Anas to leave Nimisha was high. “They never mentioned it but you could feel the power of the organisation backing them. They sent warnings and veiled threats through people they called mediators to try and scare me into leaving her,” says Anas, who is from an orthodox family in Nilambur.

The couple finally fled and took refuge in a village in Karnataka in October 2012. Nimisha’s family went to the police in their hometown of Vandur, so the couple surrendered before the local court, which allowed them to leave together after receiving an application for marriage.

The next day, Nimisha’s family filed a petition before the Kerala high court saying that Anas had terrorist affiliations and the affair was a case of love jihad. “The allegations were a shock to my family. I decided to fight back,” Anas says.

When Nimisha was produced before the high court, the judge asked her mother if she would consent to Nimisha’s marriage to Anas. Her mother reiterated the allegation of love jihad, so the court directed the Vandur police to provide security and ensure that they were married at the sub-registrar office in Nilambur within a month.

During that month, Anas said he received many threats, and Nimisha was sent to a women’s shelter where she was constantly told not to marry him. “Nimisha stayed strong,” says Anas.

The couple got married at the subregistrar office with police security on November 6, 2012. “My father, mother and sisters were there, but her family refused to come,” says Anas.

A year ago, Nimisha’s parents reconciled with the couple when her brother was getting married. “But my other relatives are still don’t talk to us,” says Nimisha.

The couple has a two-month-old child. “We each follow our own faith and our child will choose her religion once she becomes a major,” says Nimisha.

Why this couple won’t forget their wedding night


Monika, 32, and Vikramjeet, 35, will never forget their wedding night — they had to scale a wall and run barefoot to a relative’s house in the next village to escape Monika’s furious family.

“We were sleeping at my inlaws’ house in Bijjuwali village when we were woken by shouts. We looked out of the window and saw my brother and a group of young men armed with sticks trying to break into the house,” Monika remembers.

Monika, a Jat, and Vikramjeet, a Dalit, met on a bus when they were students in Haryana’s Sirsa and fell in love. They knew they would draw the wrath of her entire community but decided to risk it.

In 2005, when she was 19 and he 23, they ran away and registered their marriage in a Chandigarh court. Monika’s godara gotra, a dominant Jat sub-caste, was livid and young men from the community threatened the couple as well as tried to intimidate Vikramjeet’s family. The couple has had to change homes several times in the last 12 years to protect their marriage and stay safe.

The couple finally approached the Punjab and Haryana high court, which directed the Haryana police to provide security cover and register an FIR against Monika’s family members.

Monika and Vikramjeet, who have a 10-year-old son, are now settled but they still worry about retaliation. Happy that the Supreme Court recently told khap panchayats not to interfere in marriages, Monika feels the government should do more to encourage inter-caste marriage. “If they are really serious about ending the caste system, they should provide a government job to women who marry outside their caste,” she says.

According to Vikramjeet, it’s important to train local police as they are the first point of contact for the couple and the family. “In our case, police tried to force Monika to return to her parents saying she had brought dishonour to her family.” The police should be more sensitive, he adds.

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