Tribal woman Files Case Against Estranged Husband For Forcible Conversion To Islam

A Hindu tribal woman married a man named Shabbir Khan 12 years ago, but separated from him after giving birth to three children, following abuse from him. She went on to marry another man, this time a Hindu from a scheduled caste. 

Now, she has filed a police case against Shabbir for forcing her to convert to Islam and threatening her with deadly consequences if she does not.

Rashtra Jyoti spoke to the woman and her second husband, who both say they are being harassed by Shabbir.

The case has come to light from the Indore district of Madhya Pradesh. As per the couple, the police did not file the woman’s case until Hindu activists staged a protest.

Details of the FIR

As per the FIR filed by the woman, named Bhuri Bai, she married Shabbir 12 years ago. She has three children with him. Shabbir lives in the Betma area of Indore.

While she was living with Shabbir, he forced her to follow Islamic rituals. She refused to follow those and, following routine spats, they separated eight years ago. Currently, she lives with her husband Vikki in Dhar district. They were married to each other in 2019.

On 9 December 2022, Bhuri visited Betma where her parents and Shabbir both live. Vikki dropped her at her parents’ house. Shabbir came there and started abusing her.

He said that she would have to return to him and she would also have to convert to Islam as he had asked her to. When she refused, he thrashed her.

Rashtra Jyoti accessed this FIR (number 815/2022) which was registered at the Betma police station of Indore Dehat on 11 December 2022.

Based on the woman’s statement, the police booked Shabbir under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 294 (uttering obscene songs, ballad or words), 506 (criminal intimidation), and sections 3 and 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.

What the police told Rashtra Jyoti

This correspondent called up the Betma police station on 15 December 2022. An officer who introduced himself as Assistant Sub Inspector Chouhan said that Shabbir had not been arrested yet. He said that the complainant had also not recorded her statement under section 164 of the CrPC in front of the magistrate to date (15 December) yet.

Asked why the police had not invoked the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act ST in the FIR, given that the complainant is from a scheduled tribe, the officer said that further sections could be invoked after arrest of the accused. 

What the victim told Rashtra Jyoti

This correspondent called up Bhuri on 15 December on the phone number mentioned in the FIR. Her husband Vikki received the call.

Asked about the case, he said, “I married Bhuri in 2019. Since then I have not been able to live in Betma peacefully. I am a farmer and own a house in Betma. I had to leave my house there and move to my village as Shabbir and his goons attack us every now and then”.

Vikki said he owns a piece of land in Betma. After marrying Bhuri and shifting to his village, he has to travel around 15 kilometers every day for his work.

Vikki belongs to the Valmiki community, he said. 

While talking about Bhuri’s previous marriage, he said that Shabbir used to treat her badly. He forced her to follow Islamic ways that included mandatory wearing of burqa every time she got out of the house and eating cow meat.

Vikki said, “Shabbir is a driver and owns woodcutter machines. Bhuri’s mother married her off to Shabbir. Not married actually. She gave her away to Shabbir thinking he was a rich man.” 

“They had three children – two sons, and a daughter. Bhuri was facing a lot of trouble from him and hence she left him, despite her children,” said Vikki.

Bhuri took the phone from him and told this correspondent, “Shabbir forced me to keep Roza during the entire Ramzan month. He forced me to wear a burqa. My mother gave me to Shabbir. I was never happy there.”

She said both her sons underwent the circumcision ritual as per Islamic customs against her wishes. 

She said she had a lot more to tell but was currently unwell and lying in bed. 

Vikki said that Shabbir is also from a “lower caste like me”. “Shabbir belongs to the Bhishti jaati,” he said.

This correspondent researched on Bhishtis on the Internet and found that they come under what community members call ‘Dalit Muslims’. Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and settled in Karachi and Sindh. Their traditional work is as water carriers.

The story goes that in the epic battle of Karbala, fought on the banks of the Euphrates in 680 CE, an enemy arrow pierced a water skin meant for the thirsty army of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein. The loss of the water and its bearer hastened the end of a lopsided battle. Today, Shia Muslims commemorate the defeat and death of Hussein during Muharram, with ritual bloodletting in street processions. And before the days of water tankers, the Bhisti was tasked with cleaning the blood off the streets.

Vikki says Betma is largely populated with Muslims and people from the Valmiki community.

Asked if any of the leaders from the Valmiki community or the Dalit community came forward to support him against Shabbir, he said no, only volunteers from ‘Bajrang Dal’ did. The case was registered only after their intervention, he said.

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