November, 2020: Only three days before the Uttar Pradesh cabinet cleared a draft ordinance to check forced religious conversion of minor girls and women, a minor Hindu girl was kidnapped by a Muslim man from west UP. However, in swift action by police, the girl was rescued the very next day.
The police team caught the man with the girl when they were just about to board a bus to leave UP, a police officer told Swarajya.
The statement by the girl’s father recorded in the first information report (FIR) – number 601/2020 at Dehli Gate police station of Aligarh district – says that a man from the neighbourhood named Habib kidnapped her.
The statement says that on 21 November, when all elders of the house had gone to a relative’s funeral, Habib entered the house around 9 pm and took the girl away.
The police booked Habib under IPC section 363 (kidnapping).
Read the FIR below:
Both Habib and the girl’s family are residents of Alahadadpur Nivry village.
Investigating officer Rahul Kumar, who is sub-inspector at Dehli Gate police station, told us on 27 November that the area is minority-dominated. The girl belongs to Rajput caste.
Kumar said that the police immediately swung into action after the complaint was received. An interrogation of Habib’s family gave the police initial clues. Then, with help of call details of Habib, he was tracked to Noida the next evening. “We found them at a bus stand near Noida Pari Chowk. They were waiting to board a bus,” said Kumar, adding that he does not know where the two intended to go.
The Pari Chowk bus stand is about 100 kilometres away from Alahadadpur Nivry.
When asked if Habib revealed anything to Kumar, the officer said that he said nothing more than that the two wanted to marry. The girl, as per the FIR, is 14 years of age while Habib, as per Kumar, is about 20-21. Kumar said that Habib works at a grocery godown and has about the same economic status as the girl’s family.
Ashish Kumar Singh, station house officer (SHO) of Dehli Gate police station, said that the girl is yet to return to her family and is staying at Malkhan Singh district hospital in Aligarh.
He said the girl has undergone medical test to ascertain sexual assault and bone-test to ascertain her age, the reports of which are yet to be received. She is yet to record her statement before the magistrate.
Singh however said that promptly after the girl’s recovery, sections of POCSO Act were added to the case though he could not immediately recall which sections.
The girl’s father told us that she studies in Class 8. He said she had never mentioned Habib’s name to any member of the family. He also said that he neither knows Habib personally nor he has ever met him. He said he mentioned Habib’s name as suspect in the FIR after preliminary inquiry with neighbours. He further said that the girl told him that Habib took her away after scaring her with a knife.
It’s pertinent to mention here that as per the ordinance against forced conversion, a marriage will be declared ‘null and void’ if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose, and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.
Update: The bail application of the accused, Habib, was rejected by Aligarh district court (bail application 1299/2021) in March, 2021. The order states that in her statement before the magistrate (recorded under section 164 of the CrPC), the girl said that Habib came to her house when she was alone. He had come with a knife. He committed robbery, and then forced her to go with him. They went to Delhi. In the night, Habib raped her.
This statement, however, was in sharp contrast to the girl’s statement to the police (recorded under section 161 of the CrPC) that she had known Habib for six months and willingly went with him. Habib and the girl spent the night together as “husband and wife”.
The order states that the girl’s age was found to be 16 in her school records and 17 as per her bone density test, which made her a minor.
Habib was booked for kidnapping and rape, and under sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual offences Act.