An NDTV investigation into the case of a young Hindu woman heckled inside a police station in Uttar Pradesh by Hindutva activists because she had married a Muslim man has found multiple weak links in the case and actions against the couple.
The video of the young woman being harassed and heckled by Bajrang Dal workers, when she went to get her marriage registered on Saturday in the town of Kanth in western Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district was viral.
The woman’s husband and his brother have been arrested by the police under Uttar Pradesh’s new anti-conversion laws, which prohibit fraudulent and forcible conversions, including conversion for marriage.
The law, which came into force in the form of an ordinance on November 28, is seen as giving legal teeth to the BJP’s battle against so-called ‘love jihad‘, the unproven conspiracy theory that Hindu women are being falsely enticed and converted by Muslim men.
The police claim they had to arrest the men because of a complaint filed by the woman’s mother, alleging that the two men were trying to forcibly convert her daughter.
According to the law, any proposal to convert needs permission from the District Magistrate two months in advance.
In the viral video, the Bajrang Dal can be heard asking her to show the permission from the District Magistrate to convert.
But the woman told the media that she had converted and married on July 24, four months before the new anti-conversion laws came into force in the state.
She said she has been living with her husband in Kanth, about 30 kilometres from Moradabad, for about three to four months.
“I married him of my own free will. I am an adult, I’m 22,” she said. On Saturday, the couple had gone to the local registrar’s office to get their marriage registered.
Her husband’s family shared translated copies of their Nikahnama, or marriage document, which show that the couple got married on July 24, and that woman was a “Nav Muslim” or a “New Muslim” at the time of the Nikah, indicating her conversion on that date.
The First Information Report (FIR) filed by the mother says the girl was taken away on December 1, five days before the couple were brought to the police station and a case was filed. But when she spoke to us, she said that they had been looking for her daughter for over two weeks.
The woman’s mother also claims in the FIR that her family found the couple on the way to a cleric’s place, where the two men were trying to get her forcibly converted.
But to the media, the family claim it was the Bajrang Dal that found the couple, when they had gone to get their marriage registered.
Both the woman’s brother and mother told us that they were informed about the incident by the Bajrang Dal, and that they (the Dal) even sent a car for them.
This is borne out by the local members of the Bajrang Dal.
“On 5th (of December), we got information that a Muslim boy and Hindu girl want to get married after converting. We went there and found it to be true. So we informed the police, and they took action,” said Chaudhary Monu Bishnoi, the Moradabad district co-convenor, Bajrang Dal.
It is, however, unclear how the Bajrang Dal found out about the incident, giving only evasive answers when asked.
“We have our secret sources. There are workers working on this but they will never come forward,” said Bishnoi.
While the police have already arrested two men in this case, despite the woman’s claims that she married of her own free will, the police are yet to act against the Bajrang Dal workers seen heckling a woman.
“We haven’t gotten a complaint on this yet. If we get a complaint from the girl or the mother, we will investigate,” said Prabhakar Chaudhary, a senior police officer in Moradabad.
We asked the Bajrang Dal men seen in the video, whether the police had acted against them.
Bishnoi and Harsh Kumar, a Bajrang Dal worker, both of whom can be seen heckling and questioning the woman in the video, however first denied having asked the woman any questions and then said there has been no action against them yet.