Monday, August 28, 2017

Forced Marriages in South Asia: Myth or Reality?

There are frequent accusations of forced marriages in India and Pakistan which are regularly reported in the mass media. These reports elicit a strong emotional response from the society at large. Many such cases end up in violence with families taking the law in their own hands. A few of these cases end up in courts with the judges deciding the fate of such marriages. Let's examine the reality of "forced marriages" in South Asia.

Interfaith Marriages:

Charges of forced marriages are usually leveled mostly against interfaith or inter-caste marriages, particularly when such unions occur without the agreement of the parents on one or both sides.

Accusations of forced marriages are rare for same-faith and same-caste marriages arranged by the parents on both sides, even when these marriages take place without the consent of the bride and the groom.

Kerala Couple Hadiya and Shafin Separated by Indian Supreme Court
Court Case in India:

A recent Kerala case involved a Muslim man Shafin Jahan and a Hindu woman Akhila Ashokan. The two met as fellow students studying medicine in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and fell in love, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

Akhila Ashokan, who prefers to be known as Hadiya, converted to Islam from Hinduism after meeting Shafin, and they married in December 2016. Upon hearing of the union, her "livid father went to the Kerala high court demanding that Hadiya be returned to his custody", according to The Guardian.  Contrary to Hadiya's express wish to stay in her marriage to Shafin,  the court nullified the wedding and forcibly sent her back to her parents' home in Kottayam. When Shafin challenged it in the Indian Supreme Court, the nation's top court upheld the lower court's decision.

Court Case in Pakistan:

An interfaith marriage between Pakistani Hindu woman Anoshi and a Muslim man Bilawal Ali Bhutto was challenged in Islamabad High Court by the bride's father Anand Lal. Lal's lawyer contended that Anoshi had been kidnapped by Bilawal  who forcibly converted her to Islam and married her, according to the Daily Times newspaper.

Anoshi told the court that she converted to Islam by choice. She took the Muslim name Maria and insisted that no one forced her to change her religion. The court directed 40-minute meeting of Anoshi with her parents and her family took place in the office of the Justice Shaukat Siddiqui where he maintained that her decisions to convert to Islam and marry Bilawal was done of her own free will. The court then allowed Anoshi to go with Bilawal and ordered police protection for the couple.

Earlier in 2012, similar charges of forced marriages were dismissed when Faryal (Rinkle Kumari), Hafsa Bibi (Dr Lata) and Haleema Bibi (Asha Kumari) told Pakistan Supreme Court that they wanted to live with their husbands who they said they chose to marry of their free will.


Young men and women in India and Pakistan who dare to defy traditions and go against the wishes of their parents to marry outside their faith, tribe or caste face the ire of their near and dear ones. The most common accusations leveled in such cases are those of "kidnapping" and "forced marriage". Such accusations then become fodder of the mainstream media where they are repeated ad infinitum without verification. Some of these cases end up in courts where the outcome depends on the judges own prejudices without regard to the right to freely choose marriage partners. The Indian Supreme Court's recent judgement forcing the separation of Hadiya and Shafin amply illustrates the injustice in such cases.

Here's a video of Pakistani Hindu activist and lawyer Kalpana Devi talking about how willing conversions of Hindu girls to Islam are often labeled as "forced conversions". She says there is media hype and distortions of facts relating to such conversions. It is important to understand the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. It is not unusual for Hindu families to attempt to avoid social stigma by characterizing all conversions and marriages of their daughters as "forced".

The Conversation from z. on Vimeo.

Related Links:


Mayraj said...
Loveless Patriarchy

The patriarchal complex of state, society and family converge to deny Hadiya both agency and dignity.
The judiciary’s increasing incline towards Hindu right-wing populism has worrying consequences for feminist judicial activism. A reminder of this is the Supreme Court ruling in the case of a young adult woman, Hadiya from Kerala, who was illegally confined in her natal home after her consensual marriage to an adult male, Shafin Jahan, was declared invalid by the Kerala High Court. The Supreme Court has most unexpectedly involved the National Investigation Agency to investigate whether Hadiya’s marriage of choice may actually be a symptom of a larger conspiracy by the terror outfit Islamic State to recruit youth into its ranks through the intimate weapon of mass conversion, better known as Love Jihad. This has disappointed activists who considered the judiciary as the last standing pillar upholding constitutional values and protecting women’s freedoms.

Hadiya was born a Hindu with the name Akhila Ashokan. She got attracted to Islam in the course of her interactions with Muslim peers when studying for a degree in physiotherapy. She decided to convert to Islam against the will of her parents and lived independently under her new identity as Hadiya. The courts rejected two habeas corpus petitions by her father and endorsed her right to take life-altering decisions. However, this changed when Hadiya got married to Jahan. The Kerala High Court annulled her marriage and granted custody to her parents.

By whipping up conspiratorial fervour, the courts, Hadiya’s parents and right-wing sociopolitical organisations have visibly nullified her fundamental right to life and freedom of association. Repeated statements made by the courts and her parents have infantilised her and rejected her ability to take her own decisions, especially those which violate the writ of her parents over her. Meant to protect women’s freedoms, the courts have not just failed to do so but unwittingly conferred a punishment on Hadiya through confinement under parental custody. She has been barred from contacting her husband and has had to give up her professional practice.

Previous cases of so-called Love Jihad were premised on familiar notions of love being a state of ecstasy, naiveté and audacity. However, Hadiya’s case is not. She was not in love, she had registered herself on a Muslim matrimonial website post conversion, where she met Jahan, a young professional working in Saudi Arabia, and decided to marry him. This is what baffles many. Why would a woman in her right mind go against the grain of societal norms and take such risks? The answer may be a damning one; that women seeking mobility are increasingly realising the lovelessness of Indian families/society, rejecting these and making life choices starkly different and radical from that approved by the latter. While such transgressions have been around for as long as society has existed, globalisation is providing accelerated opportunities for the same. Thus, it may be seen that the new sites for these contestations are small towns and cities in Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh where the anti-Love Jihad armies and anti-Romeo squads thrive.

Riaz Haq said...

Love jihad bogey: Hadiya committed no crime. Why has she been in confinement for a year now?
The Indian judiciary is supposed to protect a citizen's liberty. But here, it has arbitrarily taken it away, citing ‘Indian tradition’.

On August 22, the Supreme Court of India struck a significant blow for women’s rights. The court scrapped the practice of instant triple talaq, which gave Muslim men arbitrary powers to end a marriage. The move bought India in line with much of the rest of the world, where most Muslim legal systems have already barred the practice.

It is therefore a curious irony that the same court had also struck a blow against women’s rights just a week before the triple talaq judgement. On August 16, the Supreme Court ordered the National Investigation Agency to inquire into the religious conversion and marriage of Hadiya, a 24-year old woman from Kerala. In this, it backed an earlier judgement of the Kerala High Court. While Hadiya has converted to Islam and then married of her own choice in 2016, both courts seemed to disregard her own thoughts on the matter, preferring instead to let her father decide for her.

Some media reports have presented this as a case of “love jihad”, the conspiracy theory that Muslim men woo Hindu women with the express purpose of pressuring them to convert them to Islam. This is a misrepresentation. Hadiya had converted to Islam long before her marriage. The main issue here is: does India believe an adult woman has a mind of her own?

From Akhila to Hadiya
Hadiya – Akhila before her conversion – is from Kottayam in Kerala. She left home in 2011 to study for a bachelor’s degree in homeopathy in Salem, Tamil Nadu. Here she made Muslim friends and started to follow Islam.

Matters soon reached a head. Akhila complained that her family forced her to perform rituals relating to her grandfather’s death in November, 2015. In January, 2016, Hadiya left her home and moved to Satya Sarani, a Muslim educational non-governmental organisation, in the Malappuram district of Kerala.

Akhila’s father, Ashokan, filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Kerala High Court, asking it to locate his daughter. On January 19, Hadiya presented herself to the court. As a consequence, on January 25, the Kerala High Court dismissed Ashokan’s petition, noting that Hadiya was not under illegal detention and was staying in Satya Sarani of her own free will.

Forced confinement
Given that it had been established that Hadiya had converted of her own free will, the matter should have ended here. But in August, 2016, Ashokan filed another writ of habeas corpus in the Kerala High Court, alleging that Hadiya was likely to be taken to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. This allegation of a link with the Islamic State was backed up with little proof. Moreover, Hadiya argued in court that since she did not possess a passport, leaving the country was impossible. Yet, curiously, Ashokan’s writ was not dismissed.

It is here that things start to get extremely convoluted as the Kerala High Court started to restrict Hadiya’s liberty. On August 17, the court ordered the Kerala Police to put her under surveillance. On August 22, the court tried to convince the young woman to accompany her parents to their home. When she refused, the Kerala High Court did something astonishing: it ordered her to be taken out of Satya Sarani and put into a hostel for women. A month later, on September 27, Hadiya complained in writing that for no fault of hers, she was “in the custody of the court without being permitted to interact with anyone else”.

In doing so, the court invoked the colonial concept of “parens patriae” jurisdiction, under which the monarch in Britain was considered the parent and the protector of all his subjects. This concept is usually invoked when courts conclude that an individual is not in a position to defend themselves.

Anonymous said...

Their National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been given judiciary clearance to investigate "love jehad"!

Riaz Haq said...

The indignity of being #Muslim in #India. #BJP #Modi #Hindutva #Islamophobia

by Sahil Wajid

I have, over the years, endured considerable discomfort and faced discrimination on account of my Muslim name—despite being wholly irreligious, despite having had a sheltered upbringing in a big city and access to education and employment, and despite having had many Hindu friends over the years who stood up for me.

Extrapolating from these personal experiences beyond my narrow prism of privilege, I can only imagine the horrors that the less fortunate Muslim men and women in the Hindi heartland would have had to endure. Especially, those who try to exercise their so-called freedom of religion and, unlike me, choose to assert their religious identity.

Sure, they are free to practice their religion and there are no legal obstacles (at least not yet), but for minorities in general and the beleaguered Muslims in particular, what this freedom essentially translates into is little more than the freedom to suffer marginalisation and humiliation.

And most of them do not even have “secular” first names to hide behind.


My first name was chosen by my mother because it was, as she put it, a “secular” name. Being a mildly religious woman, that really meant the name came as close as it could to a Hindu one, without sounding like a complete cop-out to some of her more orthodox Muslim relatives.

At any rate, it was better than the more spiritual name that my father, an atheist working at a bank, had in mind: Khusro, which, she said, would have been a pronunciation nightmare (besides being, as I later realised, egregiously Muslim-sounding).

While the turmoil of 1992 was still a few years away when I was born, my mother, unlike my father, seemed to have foreseen the times to come. However, as I was soon to find out, while first names can be chosen, there are no such secularising remedies for family names.

Delhi pejoratives
At my Delhi school one day, a seven-year-old in my class found out that my middle initial “A” stood for “Abdul.” He declared it was something to be ashamed about—rather viciously for his young age and in the unrelenting manner that children do when they pounce on an embarrassing secret. I realised at that early age that my Muslim surname was unlikely to ever be an asset and was best kept to oneself when it could be helped.

Subsequently, I introduced myself only by my first name. Once, when pressed, I lied about the “A” standing for “Agarwal,” before eventually dropping the inconvenient middle-name altogether. Of course, there were more such instances along the way to high school, from being

bestowed with nicknames pertaining to the

I introduced myself only by my first name.

stereotypical Muslim occupations, such as Darzi (tailor) and Naai (barber), to the now all-too-common Pakistani.

I also became familiar, much to the horror of my scandalised parents, with the more unsavory pejoratives for Muslim men, thanks to some of the older boys in my Delhi locality.

In college, stereotypes dressed as harmless “jokes” were routinely flung in one’s face. With my Muslim name, they came in the form of gags centered on terrorism—about hijacking small vehicles, a supposed proclivity for explosions, and so on. My surname provided a sustained spark for creativity of this kind, and not wanting to be perceived as unsporting and risk isolation, I played along.

Riaz Haq said...

#Bengaluru, #India: #Hindu Doctor forces #Muslim woman to chant 'Krishna Krishna'

A woman has alleged that a government doctor forced her to chant “Krishna Krishna” to carry out a tubectomy surgery on her. The doctor, the woman claimed in her police complaint, threatened to cancel her surgery if she did not obey his order.

According to the complainant, Naseema Banu (22), a resident of Nandini Layout in Yeshwanthpur, she and her husband had decided that Naseema would undergo tubectomy surgery after the birth of their second daughter 10 months ago.

Knowing of a tubectomy surgery camp being held at Chintamani Government Hospital on Tuesday, Naseema, her husband and aunt left for Chintamani and enrolled her name in the hospital. After hours of waiting for her turn, when Naseema went to the operation area, she saw doctors asking patients to chant “Krishna Krishna” during the operation.

“I was asked to come for the surgery at 1 pm. The doctors operating on women were asking the patients to chant Krishna Krishna while being operated. As I was a Muslim, I started saying, Allah Allah, to which the doctors objected. I tried to convince them saying I am a Muslim and I cannot chant Krishna’s name, but the doctors refused to accept my explanation,” Naseema said in her complaint.

She further said that the doctors threatened to cancel her surgery if she did not chant “Krishna Krishna” and that she was forced into chanting it.

After the surgery, Naseema approached the Chintamani city police station and lodged a complaint, stating that her religious sentiments were hurt by the act of doctor Ramakrishna, who according to her forced her into chanting “Krishna Krishna”.

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #India honor killing: 'My father ordered my (Dalit) husband's murder'. #caste #honorkilling #SouthIndia #Telangana

On 14 September, Pranay Perumalla was murdered in front of his wife, Amrutha, in an alleged honour killing. BBC Telugu's Deepthi Bathini spoke to Amrutha, whose father has been arrested for plotting the attack.

Amrutha and Pranay were high school sweethearts in Miriyalaguda, a small town in the southern Indian state of Telangana. They first met at high school.

"We always liked each other. We used to talk a lot on the phone and then we fell in love," she says with a wan smile.

Amrutha, 21, belongs to a wealthy, upper-caste family, while Pranay, who was 24, was a Dalit (formerly untouchable). In April 2016, they married despite her parents' objections. Now five months pregnant, she finds herself saying the unimaginable.

"My father killed my husband because he did not belong to the same caste as me."

India woman fights family over 'low caste' husband's murder
There is no official data but according to one study, hundreds of people are killed each year in India in so-called honour killings - for falling in love or marrying against their families' wishes. Many families still prefer arranged marriages within their own caste and religion.

Police have arrested Amrutha's father, Maruti Rao, and six others, including Mr Rao's brother and three alleged contract killers, in connection with the murder. District superintendent AV Ranganath told reporters that Mr Rao had allegedly conspired with his brother and two other men to kill Pranay - and those men had helped him hire the contract killers for a sum of 10 million rupees ($138,000; £104,000).

He added that the attack outside the hospital was the fourth attempt on Pranay's life.

Mr Ranganath also said that Mr Rao had admitted to the charges and had said he had done this because Pranay was a Dalit and his family was not wealthy.

But Mr Rao and the other accused have made no independent statement about the charges. The BBC contacted Mr Rao's lawyer who said he had no comment. The BBC also visited Mr Rao's house but found it empty and no other members of the family have provided a response.

Image caption
Dalit groups have come out in support of Amrutha
On the day of the murder, Amrutha woke up late. Her back was aching, so she went to the hospital for a check-up. Pranay and her mother-in-law accompanied her.

When they left the hospital, she recalls asking Pranay, who was a few steps behind her, a question. When he didn't answer, she turned around and saw him lying on the ground.

CCTV footage from the hospital, which has been broadcast on national news channels, shows a man following the family as they walked out of the gate. He first hacked at Pranay's upper body with what appears to be an axe. When Pranay fell, he struck him again.

Amrutha says her mother-in-law pushed the man away, while she ran inside the hospital to get help.

"When I called my father to confront him, he said, 'so what should I do? Take him to a hospital?'" she says.

India 'honour killings': Paying the price for falling in love
Community torn apart by 'honour killings'
Growing up, Amrutha says, her mother discouraged her from even making friends with children from other castes. So her parents were against her relationship with Pranay from the moment they found out about it. But that didn't stop Amrutha.

"We had to run away to see each other. But I did not care about his caste or how much money his family had. What was important was that we loved each other."

Even after they married, Amrutha says, her parents forced her to return home and locked her up in a room. Eventually, she managed to escape. And the couple moved in with Pranay's parents, who had accepted their marriage.

Riaz Haq said...

‘Forced conversions’ of Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan: another perspective

Let’s look at the public discourse around forced marriage (Urd. jabri shadi) or forced conversion (Urd. jabran mazhab tabdili) in Pakistan (but also internationally). Here we frequently find one out of two possible explanations: first that Hindu women wish to embrace Islam due to its inherent attraction (put forward by the Muslim religious right).

The second one emphasised by liberal Pakistani media and Hindu nationalists is that that Muslim predators aim to spread Islam through the forced conversion and marriage of minority women.

But nuanced explanations taking into account Hindu women’s agencies are difficult to find.

The case of Rinkle Kumari, a Hindu girl from Ghotki in northern Sindh, who vanished from her home in 2012 serves as an apt example. Even though her case gained significant public attention, it is still not completely clear why and how Rinkle disappeared. Rinkle gave a few public statements, these, however, were alternately interpreted as coerced by her kidnappers or pressurised by her family. Even though Rinkle talked publicly, her words had no impact on the male-dominated public discussion.

Engaging with Hindu patriarchal structures
Finally, if we wish to fully understand why these girls disappear, I believe it is crucial to engage with the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. I believe that behind some cases of forced conversion we actually find a family’s attempt to avoid social stigma.

Rural parts of Sindh (but also other parts in Pakistan) are highly patriarchal and daughters who decide to marry a man of their own choice are frequently a reason for shame.

By labelling an eloped daughter as the victim of a crime, Hindu families avoid ridicule and embarrassment. I base this assumption on my lengthy collaboration with Hindu rights groups in Sindh as well as the study of affidavits taken from Sindhi newspapers (called Qassamu Namo in Sindhi).

My work with Hindu right groups in Sindh.
Women commission such documents with the help of court clerks. These affidavits are published a few days after the girls have left their families and serve as proof that they had willingly eloped.

I believe that explaining cases of forced conversion with religious zeal, fails to see the complexities behind the economic, social, and political realities of many Pakistani-Hindu women.

This short essay shows the myriad ways in which non-Muslim women are commodified within Pakistan’s patriarchal society. Local influential elites, for example, might utilise religious sentiment as an insidious tool to cover up sexual harassment.

Rinkle’s conversion to Islam has shown how today’s mediatisation turned her body into a mute token of male honour, bereft of the ability to speak for herself. Finally, social workers in Sindh confirm that a portion of these incidents consist of women who willingly leave their homes to marry into Muslim families. Such incidents of female agency also need to be considered when dealing with cases of forced conversion.

The last word I would like to offer Kalpana Devi, a Hindu woman from Sindh and a human rights lawyer, who has been working on such cases for many years.

Riaz Haq said...

Willing conversions to #Islam and marriages of #Hindu girls to #Muslim men are in #Pakistan are often labelled as "forced". #Pakistani #Hindu activist Kalpana Devi on how #media hypes and distorts #ForcedConversions and #ForcedMarriage in #Sindh.

Riaz Haq said...

Another video of a #Pakistani #Hindu family claiming #ForcedConversions and #ForcedMarriage of 21 year old daughter but the judge found otherwise. Family wants arranged marriage to #Hindu boy in their own caste.

Riaz Haq said...

Kiran Kumari: “I left for the love of Islam. Shabbir was simply the route to my new religion". Allegations of #ForcedConversion of #Hindu girls to #Islam in #Sindh predate #Pakistan's independence.

Mitho is unapologetic when asked why he helps eloping women convert. He said it is his duty to provide protection to anyone who wishes to accept Islam. “We take in the eloping couples because it is our duty to provide them with security,” he said.

By his own assertion, Mitho maintains regular contact with many of the women who have converted recently, supposedly to ensure their safety and security. But Hindu community leaders explain that the concept of honour killing or declaring their women as karis is foreign to the community; they insist that no convert has ever been harmed by her family following her marriage.

Mitho also adds that his first reaction, after a woman arrives at his house for conversion, is to call her parents and inform them that their daughter is safe with him. “We then wait a few hours to see if they are interested in taking her back,” he told the Herald. “More often than not, they show no interest because they are angry at her for wishing to convert to Islam and they don’t take action until after she has been converted and married.”

In Kiran’s case, Hindu community leaders insist that she was abducted. “On the eve of Eid, she went to the fields with her mother to bring back fodder for their livestock. Four Muslim boys started teasing the girl as the two women were returning home. When Kiran told them off, they became angry and took her away on a motorcycle” – this is how Ramesh Jaipal, a leader of the Hindu community in Rahimyar Khan, narrated the case. He told the Herald how hundreds of Hindus peacefully protested outside the house of Kiran’s alleged abductors a day after she was taken away – only to face further abuse. Many of the protesters were badly beaten by local Muslims for gathering in a Muslim area, he says.

While Kiran denies all this and insists that she left her home of her own volition, she was confused about how to explain the reasons behind her conversion. “Did you leave home because you loved Islam, or because you loved the boy?” she was asked. “I left for the love of Islam. Shabbir was simply the route to my new religion,” she replied, but could explain what it is about Islam that inspired her to convert, or how well she knew the religion prior to her conversion. Soon her answers begin to contradict each other – the question of how she landed at Mitho’s house, especially, became blurred in the thicket of her changing statements.

To divert attention from her, Mitho’s men rushed in her husband. But it seemed that Ahmed was not as confident as his wife. When asked a question, his eyes darted to the back of the room towards where Mitho was standing, for reassurance and confirmation. After much confusion, Kiran whispered something in his ear and he began to talk about where he comes from.

A diffident Ahmed, understandably, failed to reduce the confusion in the room. At first, he said he doesn’t love Kiran; then, minutes later, after she surreptitiously elbowed him, he began to talk about how he wrote love letters to her for two years. Neither of the two have these letters anymore. In this case, the mixing of love with religion is not as seamless as Mitho and his men would like it to appear.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan court rules teenage Hindu girls converted to Islam voluntarily

Two Pakistani Hindu sisters whose parents said they were kidnapped and forced to change their religion to marry Muslims had converted voluntarily, a court ruled on Thursday, in a case that has attracted attention in Hindu-majority India.

The court had ordered the government to take custody of the sisters, both teenagers, in late March after accusations spread on social media that they had been forced to convert to Islam.

Another video showed the sisters saying they had married two Muslim men and converted to Islam of their own free will.

The court said the two were adult enough to make their own decisions and that they were not forced to convert.

Police say the teenagers left their home in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh on March 20 to be married in Punjab province, where the law does not bar marriages of those younger than 18, unlike Sindh.

The police detained ten people in the case and registered a formal case of kidnapping and robbery on complaints from the girls’ parents.

The incident prompted a rare public intervention by a top Indian official in its neighbor’s domestic affairs, when Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter she had asked India’s ambassador in Pakistan for a report.

Pakistan was “totally behind the girls”, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on social media in response to Swaraj’s message, but asked India to look after its own minority Muslims.

Riaz Haq said...

The recent report on commission on forced conversions by Senator Anwer Kakar which comprises of minorities as well had given a report that in majority of the alleged conversion cases the girls were of legal marriageable age and they had married of their own free will. When the parents could not find a legal recourse they fed the media and certain NGOs that the girl was minor and abducted.

He (Kakar) said the committee found out that most or all of the cases of forced conversions had some degree of willingness on the girl's part.

"What we observed is that the majority of the girls and boys had secretly decided to elope and marry. But that was because the families of the two would not accept them as life partners," he said.

Lal Chand Malhi said that the state should take the responsibility of providing shelter and security to such couples who willingly run away, change their religions willingly and get married.

"Those who run away from their homes should be provided state protection for some time so that the girl may finalise her decision," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan - #Fakenews about rape & conversion of a #Christian girl, & attack on a church. After the #Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in #Sukkur, but here too the police denied such an act.

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - On May 24, news spread in Pakistan of the alleged kidnapping of a 14-year-old Christian girl, Sunita Masih, in Faisalabad, Punjab Province. She was supposed to have been abducted, raped and then converted to Islam by Muslim men. After the Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in Sukkur (Sindh province), but here too the police denied such an act.
Asif Munawar, Catholic human rights activist from Faisalabad told Fides: "The news about Sunita Masih is false; the photo spread on social media is that of a girl who was kidnapped three years ago. There are people who spread false news about attacks and persecutions against religious minorities. But we have to pay close attention and check carefully. Even the latest news of the attack on a church in Okara has been found to be completely false".
Father James Channan OP, Dominican Catholic priest, Director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, comments to Agenzia Fides: "We condemn the fake news that was released earlier this week about the alleged kidnapping, rape and forced conversion of a Christian girl as well as that about an alleged attack on a church in Okara. Fake news is dangerous, it is horrible, it is a trap, and it adds to the worry and trauma of religious minorities and helps fuel hatred and resentment between communities of different beliefs and is a cancerous growth factor for interfaith relationships and ruin the country's image".
Fr. Channan, who himself works closely with leading Islamic religious representatives to create peace and harmony between people of different faiths, says: "We have to act responsibly, every time we receive a message we have to verify its truthfulness. It should be noted that with the hectic and uncontrolled distribution on social media, such fake news has gone viral, creating frustration and fear among members of religious minorities. We need to be aware of the danger of artificial fabricated messages spreading on the internet and social networks". Fr. Channan points out: "We must understand, denounce and stop those who intend to create havoc by spreading false news, to support their own hidden programs or personal interests. There have been attacks on churches or attacks on members of religious minorities in Pakistan, but alarmism is harmful. We have to be able to rely on the truth and false news is counterproductive and, above all, harms the minorities themselves". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2021)

Riaz Haq said...

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – For more than a week now, a section of the minority Sikh community in Indian-administered Kashmir has been protesting against what they call the “forced conversion” of two women who married Muslim men – a claim denied by police officials and the men’s families who say the unions are interfaith marriages.

Manmeet Kaur, a 19-year-old Sikh woman, and her 29-year-old partner Shahid Nazir Bhat, both residents of the Muslim-majority region’s main city of Srinagar, fled their homes on June 21, according to their families and the police.

Police officials told Al Jazeera the couple turned themselves in on June 24 and have been detained in different police stations in Srinagar.

Two days later, Manmeet gave her statement to a judge in a Srinagar court, denying her family’s allegation that Bhat kidnapped her.

Officials said the two married in an Islamic ceremony held in secret after Manmeet converted and changed her name to Zoya.

As she was giving her statement before the judge, scores of Sikh community members, along with Manmeet’s parents, gathered outside the court premises, demanding that she be handed over to the family.

That evening, Manmeet was handed over to her parents by the police, while Bhat remains in custody.

The next day, June 27, hundreds of Sikhs gathered in Srinagar, alleging that two women from the community had been “forcefully converted” to Islam, triggering tensions in a region where Sikhs and Muslims have been living in harmony for centuries.

Making up about 2 percent of the population in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Sikhs are a significant minority who did not leave the restive region despite decades of armed rebellion against the Indian rule.

Most Sikhs live in villages in Kashmir’s volatile south and north, where the conflict is most intense.

‘In love for 15 years’
The other Sikh woman at the centre of the ongoing storm is 29-year-old Danmeet Kour, who has been in love with her high school classmate, a 30-year-old Muslim named Muzaffar Shaban for 15 years now.

In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Danmeet said she married Shaban in June 2014.

“I had converted to Islam in 2012, two years before I married my boyfriend. It was the wish of both of us, no one forced me. It was my decision because the Indian constitution grants me this right to choose my partner,” she told Al Jazeera.

Danmeet, who has a master’s degree in political science, said she left home on June 6 to live with Shaban, telling her family not to look for her as she was now going to live with her husband.

But her family went to the police and the couple was traced within two hours, she said. Shaban was arrested on kidnapping charges and Danmeet handed over to her parents.

Danmeet said her family took her to Punjab, the Sikh-majority state in India’s west, where she alleged that “multiple groups met her and tried to influence her decision and forced her to give a statement against her husband”.

“I received death threats. But I told those folks in Punjab, my family and everyone else that I will only record my statement before a judge in the court,” Danmeet told Al Jazeera.

For nearly a month now, Shaban has been in a jail in Srinagar.

After her return from Punjab, Danmeet was presented to a local court on June 26 where she gave a statement saying her family had falsely charged her husband with kidnapping and she should be provided police protection.

“I just want to live with my in-laws and did not want to go back to my parents,” she told the court.

Riaz Haq said...

In #Pakistan, #Muslim men marrying #Hindu girls are often accused of kidnapping, forced conversion/marriage. Now in #Kashmir, a #Sikh woman says she married for love but her parents call It coercion. #BJP #Hindutva want to totally outlaw all such marriages

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Manmeet Kour Bali had to defend her marriage in court.

A Sikh by birth, Ms. Bali converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Her parents objected to a marriage outside their community and filed a police complaint against her new husband.

In court last month, she testified that she had married for love, not because she was coerced, according to a copy of her statement reviewed by The New York Times. Days later, she ended up in India’s capital of New Delhi, married to a Sikh man.

Religious diversity has defined India for centuries, recognized and protected in the country’s Constitution. But interfaith unions remain rare, taboo and increasingly illegal.

A spate of new laws across India, in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., are seeking to banish such unions altogether.

While the rules apply broadly, right-wing supporters in the party portray such laws as necessary to curb “love jihad,” the idea that Muslim men marry women of other faiths to spread Islam. Critics contend that such laws fan anti-Muslim sentiment under a government promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda.

Last year, lawmakers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh passed legislation that makes religious conversion by marriage an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, 162 people there have been arrested under the new law, although few have been convicted.

“The government is taking a decision that we will take tough measures to curb love jihad,” Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk and the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh, said shortly before that state’s Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance was passed.

Four other states ruled by the B.J.P. have either passed or introduced similar legislation.

In Kashmir, where Ms. Bali and Mr. Bhat lived, members of the Sikh community have disputed the legitimacy of the marriage, calling it “love jihad.” They are pushing for similar anti-conversion rules.

While proponents of such laws say they are meant to protect vulnerable women from predatory men, experts say they strip women of their agency.

“It is a fundamental right that women can marry by their own choice,” said Renu Mishra, a lawyer and women’s rights activist in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.

“Generally the government and the police officials have the same mind-set of patriarchy,” she added. “Actually, they are not implementing the law, they are only implementing their mind-set.”

Across the country, vigilante groups have created a vast network of local informers, who tip off the police to planned interfaith marriages.

One of the largest is Bajrang Dal, or the Brigade of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The group has filed dozens of police complaints against Muslim suitors or grooms, according to Rakesh Verma, a member in Lucknow.

“The root cause of this disease is the same everywhere,” Mr. Verma said. “They want to lure Hindu women and then change their religion.”

Riaz Haq said...

Video of 'domestic feud' in #Pakistan misleadingly shared as '#Hindu woman's abduction'. In response to the misleading posts, Atta Mohammad, the officer in charge of the case in #Sindh province, told AFP the video shows Hindus involved in a "domestic feud"

A video that shows a woman dragged by several men towards a car has been viewed tens of thousands of times in social media posts that claim she is a Hindu who was made to convert to Islam for a forced marriage in Muslim-majority Pakistan. But the video has been shared in a misleading context; it has previously circulated in reports about a woman being assaulted in public after attempting to divorce her husband. Local police told AFP everyone involved in the "domestic feud" was Hindu.

Hindi-language text overlaid on the video reads: "Pakistan: Kidnappers dragged a Hindu woman inside a car in broad daylight to rape her, force her into marriage and convert her [to Islam]."

Local media in both India and Pakistan have previously reported on cases of Hindu women in Pakistan being abducted and forced to convert to Islam for forced marriages.

The cases were reported by Indian media organisation The Wire here; Indian channel NDTV here; and Pakistani news outlet Dawn here in 2021.

The video circulated online after Manjinder Singh Sirsa -- a member of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party -- shared the footage alongside a similar claim on Twitter on December 21, 2021.

The video was also shared with a similar claim on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here and here.

Screenshots of the video were also shared in this Malayalam-language Facebook post.

But the video had been shared in a misleading context.

In response to the misleading posts, Atta Mohammad, the officer in charge of the case in Sindh province, told AFP the video shows Hindus involved in a "domestic feud".

"The family members fought with each other; one suspect is under custody and four others have been granted bail by the court," he said.