“We wouldn’t have been able to marry in Shahjahanpur, someone would have found out and stopped us,” said 25-year-old Shameem, who fled with 21-year-old Simran from their hometown in Uttar Pradesh last month.
Fearing vigilantism in the name of ‘love jihad’ and with the UP Police clamping down on interfaith couples citing the newly promulgated Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, the interfaith couple had on December 16 petitioned the High Court, seeking protection not only from their families but also any coercive action by the UP Police.
On Saturday, the couple applied for registration of their marriage under the Special Marriage Act after the Delhi government assured the High Court on Wednesday that they would be provided a safehouse and also police security, if required.
The court, however, did not go into their apprehensions against the UP Police. The couple had sought a direction that the authorities in Delhi be asked to ensure that in the event of any investigation by UP Police, they would not be taken out of the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court without its prior permission.
While declining the couple’s plea, Justice Anu Malhotra said on Wednesday that the prayers “are in the realm of speculation” and “no such orders in relation thereto can be granted presently”.
Talking to The Indian Express, the couple said they fled Shahjahanpur in November as Simran’s family was allegedly forcing her into marriage with another man, and added that they do not plan to go back anytime soon as they feared reprisals from vigilantes and authorities.
“The new law is a problem for interfaith couples. That was one of the reasons we left Shahjahanpur,” Shameem said.
“Agar wahan se karte, toh love jihad keh dete (if we had married there, they would have called it love jihad)… even if I wasn’t being forced into marriage, they would have said that because I am with a Muslim boy. In UP, they do this deliberately to trap the man,” Simran added.
The couple said they met in April 2017 at a coaching centre, where Simran was studying to get into the police, and Shameem for a banking job. “He was good at studies and so we started talking and got close,” said Simran.
While Shameem, a BTech graduate from Lucknow, later moved to Delhi, where he worked for an automobile company, Simran stayed on in Shahjahanpur, working as an accountant, a job, she says, she left “due to family pressure” during the lockdown.
The couple told The Indian Express that they feared reprisals from their families as much as from vigilantes and authorities in UP.
“I was mostly home during the lockdown and my family suspected that I was talking to someone on the phone for long. They started forcing me to get married,” Simran said.
She said her family did not suspect that the man she was in touch with was Muslim until she left for Delhi in November.
Once in Delhi, they contacted an NGO that helped them move court.
Shameem said that until last month, his family had not known about their relationship. “Even if they object, I can’t leave her or ask her to change her religion. I will marry under the Special Marriage Act,” he said.