They ran away to Bangalore, they ran again to Kochi, they have been running for 11 months now, they don’t want to run anymore. From the day a Hindu engineer and a Muslim dental student from a town near Kerala’s northern city of Kozhikode decided to move in together, their life has become a nightmare haunted by familiar ghosts: religious fundamentalists, supari gangs, a court case and now Internet trolls.
In between, 24-year-old Gautham and 21-year-old Anshida managed to get married at a registrar’s office in Kozhikode, guarded by workers of the CPI(M), which the engineer’s family is close to, and police. But for Anshida’s parents, who belong to a family of politicians affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), that has hardly mattered.
Just three days ago, Gautham’s house in Perambra was attacked in the night by an unidentified gang which left most of the window panes in pieces. Fed up of being on the run for months, Gautham and Anshida had started staying there, with his parents, just a month ago.
“We are virtually under house arrest, the repeated threats have really disturbed Anshida,” said Gautham, whose parents, both school teachers, have been the “only solace”.
It was supposed to be a feel-good school romance — Anshida was Gautham’s junior — with a happy ending, but it has turned out to be anything but that. “Her parents were against the marriage despite knowing that we were in love for several years,” said Gautham.
Some people from Anshida’s community did offer a solution, one that was mirrored by local RSS workers if Gautham wanted their support. But the couple’s ‘no’ was firm to any suggestion of conversion.
“We have been hounded since January this year when we decided to live together. Hoping that the resistance from her family and community would die down, we moved to Bangalore to live in hiding,’’ said Gautham.
Gautham worked as mechanical engineer in Bangalore. But within a month of that shift, they got a chilling tip-off.
“We got information that a 20-member supari gang was roaming in Bangalore, searching for us,” Gautham said. Since Anshida’s family had filed a habeas corpus in Kerala High Court, we could not even register a complaint with the local police in Bangalore as such a step would have led to our arrest.’’
By then, an unidentified gang had attacked the house of a relative of Gautham in Wayanad, the popular hill station on the way from Kozhikode to Bangalore.
In March, the couple sneaked in to Kochi.
“Till last month, we were living there, under the protection of CPI(M) workers because my family members are supporters of the Left,” said Gautham. “They ensured we had food and kept us away from the extremist elements.”
The next step was marriage – in Kozhikode, where it all began.
“We had fixed the marriage, as per the Special Marriages Act, on September 17. But on the day before, we got a call from Anshida’s family saying that their men would be at the registrar’s office and that my legs would be broken if I ventured inside.’’
The couple didn’t lose courage. Gautham lodged a complaint with Kozhikode City police and sought the CPI(M)’s support for the function. On October 8, their marriage was officially registered.
Now, it was time for the sequel to begin, and the Internet trolls stepped in. Gautham passes on this one Facebook comment, directed at Anshida, to give a taste of the venom. “Daughter, don’t you think that this relation is a haram. The day you are being tried would come. Then, you won’t have any justifications.’’
It’s the next step that has Gautham thinking now – he has lost his job in Bangalore, and Anshida’s future is in doubt, particularly because she was studying in a dental college run by a Muslim management in Kasargode. “She wants to continue her studies, but she is afraid of going there because of the sensitive situation,” said Gautham.
The police, so far, do not appear to have made any headway either. “We have not found any particular organisation to be behind the threats,” said DySP Prajeesh Thottathil of the local Nadapuram police. “We have increased our presence and surveillance at the premises of their house at Perambra. We will now step up our vigil, even during nights.”
The couple has also been assured of support by the CPI(M). “Some fundamentalists are after the couple,” said K K Lathika, the legislator from Nadapuram. “The party will take steps to ensure that Anshida continues her studies in the Muslim-run college without any threat. The party will also continue its support for the couple who hail from a CPI(M) family.”