The police in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, stopped a wedding ceremony on Tuesday and took away the couple following a phone call claiming that a Muslim man was marrying a Hindu woman after converting her, letting them go only the next day after finding that both were Muslims. The man, 39-year-old Haider Ali, has alleged that the police personnel beat him up with a leather belt and tortured him for hours at the Kasya Police Station.
The couple finally got married on Wednesday after the brother of the woman, Shabeela Khatoon, 28, arrived from Azamgarh district and told the police that if she wanted the wedding, the family had no objection.
Kasya Police Station SHO Sanjay Kumar blamed “miscreants” for spreading rumours of ‘love jihad’, and said they had let the couple go after realising both were major and of the same religion. Circle Officer (CO) Piyush Kant Rai said they acted promptly as “the atmosphere is tense and the administration is strict about such cases”.
Denying allegations of torture, Kushinagar SP Vinod Kumar Singh said several senior officers as well as the Local Intelligence Unit and some “respected locals” had arrived at the police station after hearing about the case. “It was not like the couple were brought to the police station in secret. Also, the matter was soon sorted… There was no reason to beat up anyone.”
Ali, who lost his first wife 10 years ago and works as a barber in Azamgarh, told The Indian Express, “On Tuesday afternoon, Shabeela and I got married. After the ceremony, a small party was on when a police team arrived and said there had been no nikaah. They wouldn’t listen to anything and took us to the police station around 7.30 pm. There they let the cleric go after he changed his statement and said the nikaah wasn’t final yet.”
While the watchman of Ali’s village Gurmiya in Kushinagar, Mushtaqeem Ali, admitted making the call on a tip-off by some Hindu youths, a local social activist who facilitated the wedding, Arman Khan, claimed a few Hindu Yuva Vahini members had “interrogated” the couple before the police arrived.
Ali said that at the police station, Shabeela was sent to another room and he was beaten up with a belt. “One of the policemen asked another to skin me… I tried to talk to them… When Shabeela heard me crying, she panicked. The policemen asked her about her family but she was scared. Only around 9 pm could I convince her to tell the police her brother’s number.
Her family told the police she was Muslim, and sent a photo of her Aadhaar card and even made a video call. The police personnel were polite after that, but still did not let us go. They said they would wait for her brother to arrive. I was kept in the verandah in the cold,” he said. Kushinagar is around 130 km from Azamgarh.
SHO Kumar said they let Ali and Shabeela go after she said in her brother’s presence that she did not want to go with her family and would marry Ali. “Her brother said if she wanted to get married, they did not have any objection.”
Arman Khan said Ali had approached him a week ago seeking help to get married to Shabeela. Khan was taken to the police station on Tuesday along with the cleric conducting the ceremony. Ali said Shabeela and he had known each other for “very long”, and that around a week ago, she had run away from her home in Azamgarh, and moved into his rented room.
Kasya CO Rai said they had confirmed that her family had lodged a missing person’s report at Mubarakpur Police Station in Azamgarh after she left home on December 4. Rai said, “The two knew each other for the last around one-and-a-half years. On Tuesday, we got a call at the Kasya Police Station that a Muslim man was going to marry a Hindu woman… The information was given by a few locals of the village who said they had heard that a ‘love jihad’ marriage was going to take place.”
Rai admitted that after the police stopped the wedding ceremony and brought them to the police station, Shabeela had told them “she is a Muslim and is getting married as per her will”. On whether they would take action against those who had spread the ‘love jihad’ rumour, the CO said an information could be wrong but did not amount to criminal charges.
Mushtaqeem said after some Hindu locals approached him saying a ‘love jihad’ wedding was being held, he considered it his duty to pass on the information to the police.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines