LOVE IN THE 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

VIKRAMJEET & MONIKA

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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