New Delhi: A year has passed since Pinky, 23, lost her baby in a miscarriage. Her husband Rashid could not comfort her at the time, since he was in jail under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act, 2020, widely referred to as the ‘love jihad law’, for allegedly forcibly converting and marrying her.
Today, Pinky and Rashid are rebuilding their lives in Dehradun — the Uttarakhand city where they first fell in love in 2019 and vowed to spend the rest of their lives together. They told ThePrint that they are trying to create their “happily ever after” away from Moradabad and UP and the “goons” that disrupted their lives there.
The couple’s ordeal began on 5 December last year, when they tried to register their marriage, which had taken place a few months earlier, at the Moradabad court. Rashid was picked up by the police that day and placed in judicial custody. He was released after 15 days due to lack of evidence, but their lives had already been turned upside down.
According to Pinky, members of the fringe Hindu Right-wing group Bajrang Dal pushed and heckled her even after she pleaded that she had married the Muslim man out of her free will and was three months pregnant. After that, she was taken to a Nari Niketan (women’s shelter), where she alleged that she was mistreated and suffered a miscarriage.
Pinky and Rashid’s case is one of 11 under the controversial law where UP Police have filed a final report — signifying the closure of an investigation — due to lack of evidence against the accused. A total of 108 cases have been filed under the law so far.
A member of the Bajrang Dal had told ThePrint last year that they did report the couple to the police, but denied having heckled them.
Picking up the pieces
Pinky and Rashid told ThePrint that they have been living peacefully since shifting to Dehradun, where Rashid’s family have taken them under their wing.
They have no plans of moving back to Moradabad, where Pinky’s family lives.
“There is no reason for us to ever go back and settle in Moradabad. We have only got hate there,” Rashid said. “Ab khush hone ki koshish kar rahe hai… jo chheena tha, wo toh chheen liya. Ab nahi hone dunga esa (We are trying to be happy. What had to be snatched away from us has been snatched away. I won’t let it happen again),” he added.
Rashid has found work at a salon and Pinky, who previously worked as a loan agent, is currently a homemaker. “I have told her to work if she wants to, but she has already suffered so much. I have told her to rest for as long as she needs to,” he said.
Speaking to ThePrint over the phone, Rashid referred to the background noise of people laughing and talking. “Mere gharwale hain, chhoti si duniya basa liya hai yahan pe (Those are my family members. We’ve made our own little world here).”
Saleem, Rashid’s brother, who was also arrested in the case, now lives with the couple and runs a vegetable cart.
When asked about the first time they celebrated after their traumatic experience, Rashid said it was Pinky’s birthday on 12 January. “Anniversary bhi tha hum logon ka July mein (We also celebrated our anniversary in July).”
Pinky told ThePrint that she is happy with her current living arrangements. “His family has always been very supportive. They have stood by us as a rock and we all live together here now,” she said.
Some wounds haven’t healed
Pinky is estranged from her own family and said she will never talk to her mother again. “Dhoka (betrayal),” is all she said when asked for a reason. Pinky’s mother was a complainant in the FIR and had claimed that her daughter was converted to Islam against her will. Pinky, however, said her mother had known about their marriage since September 2020.
“Time toh sabko lagta hai, Rashid jab jail se nikla tabhi soch liya tha ki kabhi mud ke nahin dekhungi (Everyone needs time, when Rashid was released, I decided never to look back),” Pinky added.
Rashid and Pinky may be resolute about moving on, but the couple’s well-wishers are still upset about the events that took place last year.
“The police and everyone knew that their marriage was valid, that there wasn’t any iota of pressure in it. Then what was the need to make this young couple go through this? Who is responsible for it?” said Rashid’s friend Zulfikar.
He referred to the Bajrang Dal members who allegedly pressured the police to lodge an FIR against Rashid and his brother on charges that they forcibly converted Pinky to Islam. Pinky eventually had to give a statement to the magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC, saying that she married Rashid and converted to Islam out of her own choice.
Senior police officials had then denied that there was any pressure from fringe Right-wing outfits, and that Pinky’s mother had lodged the complaint against Rashid.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)