A top court in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province has ordered police to produce before it on Thursday a Hindu girl who, according to her family, was abducted, forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim man. Satram Das Meghwar, through Advocate Bhagwandas, filed a case in the Sindh High Court against conversion and marriage of his 16-year-old daughter Ravita Meghwar.
Meghwar on Tuesday told the court that his daughter had been illegally married off to Syed Nawaz Ali Shah after having been kidnapped from her village near Nagarparkar Town on June 6. She was named Gulnaz after the conversion.
The same day she married 36-year-old Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in union council Gulzar Khalil in Samaro of Umerkot district in the province. The bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar ordered Mirpurkhas DIG and Tharpakr SSP to produce Ravita on June 22, the day of next hearing, Dawn reported.
Meghwar said his daughter was born on July 14, 2001. His lawyer contended that the marriage under the age of 18 was a punishable offence under the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013.
He said the registrar had mentioned Shah’s year of birth (1980) and the national identity card number on the marriage certificate. Ravita’s age was shown as about 18 years, but there was no mention of her NIC number.
Similarly, the lawyer said, the certificate of conversion to Islam also did not mention her date of birth and NIC number, but her age was shown as 18 years. “She was abducted from her house and forcibly married off to a man twice her age,” said Meghwar, who had lodged an FIR against Ali Nawaz Shah, Madad Ali Shah, Umar Junejo and Sher Mohammad Junejo for kidnapping his daughter.
The FIR was registered at the Dano Dandhal police station in Nangarparkar taluka a week ago. Earlier, Shah and Ravita had filed an application in the SHC seeking protection and accusing the girl’s parents of issuing a death threat.
The court had fixed June 30 the date of hearing on the application. Ravita has appealed to her parents to let her live with her husband happily as, according to her, she had taken the decision to embrace Islam to marry the person of her choice.
She requested the people of her community and members of civil society to stop raising the issue further. “I am very satisfied and happy after marrying Nawaz Ali Shah and now I cannot [live] without my husband,” she said yesterday and made it clear that she was not kidnapped. “I willingly went with Shah after falling in love with him.”
Ravita expressed the hope that the court would do justice with her and allow her to live with her husband. Meanwhile, Ravita’s mother Haqu insisted that her daughter was kidnapped by the influential Syed community, forcibly converted and then married.
Activists of the Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) protesting against what they called “forced conversion” of Ravita and workers of various religious parties taking to the streets in favour of her Muslim husband came face-to-face outside the press club in Umerkot on Tuesday, turning the situation critical.
Bhagchand Meghwar and other activists of the PPP-SB held a demonstration outside the press club, demanding immediate arrest of accused Nawaz Shah. Activists of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, Ghousia Jamat and Jeelani Jamat also gathered outside the club to stop what they called the propaganda with “blasphemous contents” on social media in the wake of Ravita’s conversion to Islam.