Faizabad is no place for Hindu-Muslim love
They had nothing in common. She was 30,he was 20. She was a B.Ed graduate,he had only studied till high school. Her father was an Indian Navy officer,his was a driver. She was from Mumbai,he was from Faizabad,eastern Uttar Pradesh. She was a Hindu,and he a Muslim.
It was 2002,and Jaya Gopals knowledge of Ayodhya was limited to the town being the epicentre of the Ram Janmbhoomi movement. Till she met Jamshed Ahmed,her student,at the Mumbai-based English coaching institute she taught at.
A skilled painter,Jamshed had enrolled at the institute in the hope of landing a job in the Gulf. He had come from Faizabad,just five kilometres away from Ayodhya,and was 10 years old when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. He grew up in an environment of restraint Muslims and Hindus of the twin cities would avoid getting involved in any incident that could spark off communal tension. A Hindu-Muslim marriage could be such an incident.
But Jamshed couldnt help falling for Jaya,who too returned his affection. Mumbai provided them the space and privacy to date each other. But communally sensitive Faizabad would provide none of that. So,Jamsheds flatmates,also from Faizabad,threw him out,as they were afraid that his relationship could cause them trouble back home. Jamshed left his course midway and returned to his hometown.
In Faizabad,he would keep in touch with Jaya over the phone. Six months later,Jaya landed in his city without informing him. I was shocked,and worried for her safety. I arranged an accommodation for her at a friends place, he says. Jamsheds parents found out about their relationship and even offered Jaya money to stay away from their son. They were worried no one would marry their three daughters if the couple married. Jamsheds friends boycotted him,too,more out of fear than communal hatred.
Jaya lost hope and decided to return to Mumbai. On the way to Kanpur,Jaya was constantly crying. So,we returned to Faizabad,performed a nikaah and registered our marriage, he says. Jaya converted to Islam and became Zoya. It was a tough decision but I had no other thought. His religion did not matter to me,Jamshed meant too much to me, says Jaya.
The couple lived in hiding for six months at a house in Faizabad. Meanwhile,Jamsheds family broke off ties with him. I painted signs and posters to make money, he says. Gradually,they accepted Jaya,but continued to live in separate homes. Jayas father,on the other hand,had passed away long ago,and her mother supported her relationship. She,however,hid it from her brothers as they would not accept a Muslim brother-in-law. She had told my brothers that I had married a Hindu classmate, says Jaya. But four years after her marriage,they discovered by accident that her husband was Muslim. They had gone to Mumbai and their four-year-old son,who did not know his mother was Hindu,addressed his uncles with Assalam-alaikum. They were shocked but behaved nicely. However,I still feel they are cold towards us, she says.
Jaya guided Jamsheds career,advising him to learn how to use a computer. Now,he is a consultant with an NGO. But Zoyas career has suffered. Zoya remained at home for her safety. Venturing out would have invited barbs from the locals. Faizabad is no place for Hindu-Muslim love, he says.
After nearly nine years of marriage,Jaya has now got selected for a Basic Teachers Course in Faizabad to pursue her teaching career. But the couple is still scared and refused to be photographed for this story.