‘Lied About His Religion, Made Me Undergo Halala’. Hindu Woman Who Eloped And Married Muslim Man Files Police Case

In the latest case that follows the pattern of Muslim men trapping Hindu women in relationships for the purpose of conversion to Islam, a Hindu woman from Madhya Pradesh who eloped and married a Muslim man a year ago, has filed a case of rape and forced religious conversion against him.

When she established a relationship with him and married him, she knew him as a Hindu man form a Scheduled Caste. She says the couple married with Hindu rituals and she learnt about his Muslim identity only after marriage.

The woman has alleged that after marriage, she was converted to Islam and remarried under Muslim rituals. That was not all. She was made to have sex with a cleric as a ‘purification’ ritual.

The MP police have invoked relevant sections of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, which is loosely called ‘anti-love jihad law’, along with charges of rape.

Both, the man and the cleric, have been booked and arrested. Besides these two, two brothers of the woman’s ‘husband’ and his mother have also been named in the police case, but they are absconding.

The district administration has demolished the house of the accused man, saying it was constructed illegally, under the ongoing “anti-mafia campaign” of the state government.

What The FIR Says

The first information report (FIR) in the case (number 0/2022) was registered at a woman police station in MP’s Gwalior district on 23 April. As the area the woman lives in comes under the jurisdiction of Dabra Police Station, the case has been transferred to the Dabra police.

In her complaint, the victim, Hemlata Joshi aka Neha, said that in January 2021, she met a man named Raju Jatav. He lived near Jangipura Madarsa in the Dabra area of Gwalior.

Statement of the victim in the First Information Report

Hemlata’s statement recorded in the FIR is below:

Raju started following her with an intention of being friends with her. The duo started talking to each other. Soon, Raju proposed marriage. Hemlata replied she would talk to her parents.

On 15 June 2021, Raju took her to Dabra town. There, he intoxicated her and forced himself upon her against her wishes.

Hemlata soon found out that she was pregnant. When she told Raju, he calmed her down by saying they would marry soon.

Raju took her to meet his mother, Sugga Bai, who agreed to the marriage.

However, she was against the illegitimate child. She said the pregnancy before wedding would damage her family’s reputation. Raju gave her pills to terminate the pregnancy.

They got married on 18 September 2021. The wedding took place at Sheetla Mata Mandir as per Hindu rituals. A reception party was thrown at a hotel in the City Centre area of Gwalior.

They lived in Gwalior and things were fine between them for a few months. The couple moved to his parents’ house in Dabra. There, she discovered that Raju was not Hindu but Muslim. His name was not Raju Jatav but Mohammed Imran.

“I had already married him by then, and staying with him was the only option left for me. As my parents had broken all ties with me, I had no place to go. So I decided to stay at Raju’s home,” the statement says.

It further says that her brothers-in-law, Aman and Punni, would hurl vulgar remarks at her and made indecent jokes in her presence. At times, they touched her inappropriately. When she complained about this to her husband (Imran) and mother-in-law (Sugga) they said that such jokes were common and acceptable.

Imran took Hemlata’s gold chain, bracelet, a ring, and withdrew an amount of Rs 2 lakh from her bank account.

After marriage when she again became pregnant and gave the news to her mother-in-law, she suggested her to terminate the pregnancy yet again. Imran supported this decision. When she resisted, she was pushed from the staircase one day. This caused injuries and a doctor suggested she should abort the child.

One day, a cleric named Mohammed Osama visited the house. He told her in the presence of the family that she had failed to gain acceptance of her in-laws because she was Hindu. He suggested her that she should accept Islam and remarry Imran with Islamic rituals. After that, her life would become normal.

Within days, her mother-in-law and brother-in-law made her recite kalma and have nikah with Imran.

On the same night of the nikah, she was sent to a room where Maulana Osama followed her. Imran locked the door from outside. The cleric tried to have sex with her against her wishes. When she tried resisting and threatened to go to police, the cleric said her attempts to escape were futile. The cleric raped her that night.

As instructed by the cleric, Imran’s family kept her locked in that room for two days and denied her food. After that, her mother-in-law entered the room with her son Aman. She told Hemlata that if she did not follow their instructions, they would hang her the same way they hanged Imran’s first wife.

Her mother-in-law said that she would have to make physical relations with her brother-in-law too. That night, Aman raped her.

Two people, who would visit her mother-in-law and who Hemlata can identify by their faces, also raped her.

Hemlata was taken out of her room twice a day only to use the washroom and take bath. At all other times, she remained locked inside that room. On resisting, Aman would show her a pistol and threaten her saying he would kill her family.

On 20 April 2022, her brother-in-law Punni entered her room and raped her. He left the room unlocked. That day, she escaped from the house. She took a lift from a truck driver, who dropped her at Gudda-Guddi square in Gwalior. From there, he reached the Gol Pahadiya area where her sister Kajal, who is married, lives.

Kajal and her husband Rohit took her to a hospital and later helped her register a police case against Imran and his family.

The charges applied

Based on the above statement by Hemlata, police booked Raju alias Imran Khan, his mother Sugga Begum, brothers Aman and Punni, Maulana Osama and two unidentified men under IPC sections 376 (rape), 354 (assault), 506 (criminal intimidation), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 34 (act done by several people). Additionally, section 3 and 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of religion Act has been invoked.

What the police say

This correspondent talked over the phone on 2 May to investigating officer of this case, Shailja Gupta, who is town inspector, Mahila Thana, Gwalior. The officer said that key accused Imran Khan, his brother Punni and cleric Osama have been arrested.

She said that the police are searching for Sugga Begum and Aman, along with two unnamed men, who are absconding.

Hemlata recorded her statement in front of the magistrate under section 164 of the CrPC on 26 April, the officer said.

Asked if any further charges have been invoked after the victim’s statement, she said no.

The officer repeated the district administration’s version that demolition of the accused’s house had nothing to do with the crime but was an action against illegal construction.

Statement by the victim as told to Swarajya

Hemlata was reluctant to talk when this correspondent first contacted her, over the phone. She agreed to speak only after following up for two days.

She said she is 22 and met Raju alias Imran in Gwalior at a marriage function. Hemlata hails from Dabra, which is around 50 kilometres from Gwalior, but she lived with her sister Kajal in Gwalior that time for her studies.

Hemlata noticed that Raju was following her every day after that function.

He approached her to talk. Initially, Hemlata was reluctant, but with time, and considering his persistence, she agreed to become his friend. They started talking to each other and soon fell in love.

Raju proposed her marriage, but she needed to ask her parents first. “It was a tough battle ahead, I know, as Raju belonged to the Jaatav [Scheduled] Caste. My parents were not ready for the alliance. My family is Brahmin by caste and we do not eat onion or garlic,” said Hemlata.

Imran Khan/Mirza who posed as Raju Jatav

One day, Raju took her to Dabra on his bike and fed her something that made her lose her senses. They had sex.

When Hemlata found out she was pregnant, she got panicked and told Raju. He pacified her saying he would marry her soon. He took her to meet his mother, who suggested aborting the child as it could have social repercussions later.

“We all mutually agreed to terminate the pregnancy,” Hemlata told this correspondent.

On 18 September 2021, they married at Sheetla Mata temple in Gwalior. “No one was present for our marriage. It was just the two of us and a pandit. I met Raju’s friends and family in the evening at a reception they had thrown. It was a small gathering of less than 50 people,” she said.

Hemlata says she suspected about Raju’s Hindu identity that very day as several guests looked like Muslims. Her suspicions were confirmed when Raju took her to Dabra to live with his parents. “There was no doubt left. I realised it only then that I had married a Muslim,” she says.

Things were bad for her at this house from the very beginning.

“Karwa Chauth was approaching soon after we shifted to Dabra house. I asked my mother-in-law if I could keep the fast for my husband. She said such things were not allowed in their culture and I would have to do all the housework as usual that day.”

“I was also not allowed to celebrate Diwali the next month. Not only this, I was not taken to any functions in their house, even weddings. Everyone from the family would go but I stayed at the house,” she says.

Hemlata says that forget worshipping, even taking names of Hindu deities was considered no less than a crime in that house. “They would tell me that worshipping murtis is worthless and only Allah can show the path to Jannat,” she says.

Hemlata says that when she asked Imran why he had lied to her about his name and religion, he replied that he loved her too much to let her go and he was certain that she would turn him down if she knew he was Muslim.

“He told me he had no option other than posing as Hindu,” she says.

Hemlata rubbishes Imran’s explanation as a big lie.

“All the promises he made to me before marriage were lies. He did not keep any. His brothers Aman and Punni were elder to me. I called them ‘bhaiya’ but they never treated me like their sister or bhabhi. They behaved with me like how lecherous men would behave with a woman walking on the street. They would pass vulgar comments and touch me inappropriately from the very beginning,” she says.

Punni, Hemlata’s brother-in-law

“My mother-in-law supported all such unacceptable behaviour of her sons with me. I didn’t understand that family at all. But I could not immediately leave Imran’s house. Where would I go?”

She says she would be constantly taunted at; her mother-in-law would say that the entire household had to struggle to adjust to the demands of a Hindu.

Hemlata says she still trusted Imran. She hoped he would understand her and take her out of that situation. However, he would seldom talk to her. “He would come home very late at night, mostly drunk, and force himself on me. He would use me for his satisfaction, that’s it.”

Hemlata says the “worst part” of living in Imran’s house was that they slaughtered buffaloes at home for meat. When she frowned upon it, they made her clean the meat and cook it. They made her eat the meat too, forcefully.

“I still recall the stench of blood and the sight of the slaughtered animals. I would vomit every time they did it. They would make fun of me.”

She says she heard the words “halal” and “haram” for the first time at her in-laws’ house.

Asked about the cleric, Hemlata said, “he lived nearby and visited our house often. My father-in-law was a great supporter of Islam and used to host jamaats. Hence, clerics were common visitors in our house,” she says.

She says that Osama told her, “your in-laws are not accepting you and even mistreating you because you are Hindu. You have not yet converted to Islam. If you become Muslim, they would treat you like a family member.”

The cleric Osama

Hemalata says she thought if that could make her miserable life better, so be it.

She says she remembers reciting the verses ‘la ilaha illallah’. The very next thing they did was get her remarried to Imran.

After completion of the ceremony, Maulana Osama told her, “Tujhe pak saaf karna hoga [you will have to be purified]”.

The family was constantly mentioning a word, “halala”. Hemlata did not understand it. However, she learnt about it that very night. It was rape.

She says she shudders to think how indifferent Imran was to her screams for help. She knew he was sitting outside as it was he who had locked the door of the room from outside.

That same night, Imran had sex with her too. “I kept crying but Imran ignored me. He acted like I was not crying at all,” she says.

Hemlata says that the conversion did not improve her life in any way. She was still made to stay inside the house all the time. Whenever she fell sick, she was taken to government hospitals only.

“Actually, hospitals were the last step. First, they would give me some powder. If that didn’t work, they would bring a tabiz for me to wear. They would ask me to soak the tabiz in water and drink the water. If none of this helped, they took me to a government doctor. But no matter how sick I was, they would take me only to the government hospital,” she says.

Asked if she was asked to wear a burqa, Hemlata says that she seldom stepped out of house. Inside the house, she would wear salwar-kameez and cover her head.

Asked about her rape charges against her brothers-in-law, Hemlata said her mother-in-law made her have sex with men outside of house as well. “Maybe she took money from them. How would I know,” she says.

She says she feels lucky that her brother-in-law left her room unlocked on the night of 20 April. She says this was the moment she had been waiting for. She escaped.

Hemlata says Imran’s family is “Mirza” by caste. “They would all call themselves Mirza. When I asked my mother-in-law about Mirza caste, she told me, ‘Beta hum Mirza hain, tum to Hindu ho, hamara bohot rutba hai, koi hume nahi chhu sakta’ [We are Mirza, you are Hindu, we have great influence, no one can touch us],” says Hemlata.

Sugga Begum Hemlata’s mother-in-law

At this point, Hemlata burst into tears. She said that even though she has narrated her story to several journalists, she still gets traumatised recalling it.

She said, “at times I felt like they would slaughter me the same way they slaughtered animals in their house.”

Hemlata says that during her stay there, she found out that Imran had a wife before her who had died. She says she does not know what her name or address was.

She says that her in-laws were counted among the most reputed in their colony.

“Even if I screamed loudly and went out in the street for help, no one dared to come forward. Such was their influence. Whenever they talked among themselves, they would talk of lakhs and crores of rupees,” she says.

Hemlata says she regrets her decision to elope and is struggling to come to terms with all that happened to her, including her rape multiple times.

Hemlata’s sister talked to this correspondent briefly. She said Hemlata is under medication. She said her parents have not offered to take Hemlata back in their house.

You can see her statement here

The Bulldozer Trial

On 25 April, the district administration got the house of Imran Khan demolished. There is no law in the state that enables the government to demolish the personal property of any accused of rape. The government has called the action part of “anti-mafia campaign” to clear illegal construction.

(The report was first published in Swarajya here.)

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