New Delhi: An 18-year-old Muslim girl, whose marriage to a 22-year-old Dalit man in Delhi triggered violence in Sarai Kale Khan last week, said she would not return home as she fears for her life and her husband’s.
“My parents didn’t agree to me marrying Sumit. They have an issue that he is a Hindu and that too from the Valmiki community. I can’t go back home, my brother and his friends might harm us, they have already caused so much damage,” Khushi Ahmed, who converted to Hinduism, and is now Khushi Kuriya, told ThePrint.
A mob of around 10-20 men went on a rampage in Harijan Basti last Saturday after they were apprised of the couple’s marriage.
The mob damaged bikes and cycles parked in the basti and also allegedly assaulted Dalits in the area. Three-four people sustained minor injuries in the violence. CCTV footage shows the men entering the narrow lanes, banging on doors and damaging property.
According to the police, the woman’s family members were furious over their marriage, prompting them to attack Sumit’s relatives.
Seven people have been arrested so far, including Khushi’s family members, said a senior police officer, investigating the case. The police officer also confirmed that the girl is above 18 years of age.
“A PCR call was received around 11.00 pm Saturday. Bikes and cycles have been destroyed. The woman’s side was angry with the marriage. Security has been deployed to maintain peace in the area. Eight-nine persons have been questioned. We are talking to both sides,” DCP (South East) R.P. Meena said.
“We will write to the district magistrate for the damage reimbursement. Officials have inspected all the bikes and other property damaged,” the DCP added.
The seven arrested persons are — the woman’s brother Farman, her elder sister’s fiancé Shahrukh, and other relatives and neighbours — Hasan Ali, Raja, Mohammed Ali, Shabana, Shanu. They have been booked under IPC sections of rioting, violence and destruction of property. Police personnel have been stationed outside both the woman and the man’s house.
“Her brother and other relatives won’t spare us if we go back, we need proper security and protection to live there,” Sumit said.
The couple eloped and got married on 17 March at a court. They are now living in Ghaziabad at a relative’s place and have been granted police protection by the Delhi High Court.
‘Lower caste, no income’
Khushi and Sumit had been in a relationship for about a year and both families were aware of it. However unlike Sumit’s family, Khushi’s family was strictly against the relationship. They had even fixed her marriage with a Muslim man from Aligarh and they were scheduled to get engaged on the day of the violence.
According to her elder sister, Amreen, their father Majid had even taken away her phone to stop her from speaking to Sumit.
Last December, Sumit’s family had gone to the woman’s house to speak about their wedding, but were allegedly “insulted and humiliated” by Khushi’s family.
While Sumit has studied only till Class 10 and has no source of income, Khushi didn’t appear for her Class 12 exams this year.
Apart from religious differences, both families also have a huge economical gap even though they live just a couple of blocks away from one another.
Sumit lives in a tiny cramped apartment in Murg wali gali of Harijan Basti with his parents and two sisters. Khushi’s family of six lives in a considerably spacious two-bedroom DDA apartment just a couple of blocks away.
While Sumit’s 50-year-old father, Kishandeep, is a peon, Khushi’s father Majid runs a business of repairing battery rickshaws and recharging their batteries.
“They live in a small one-bedroom apartment, the boy is of lower caste. How will they survive? The boy has no income, she has been brought up with luxury. Now she is speaking against her own brother, got him arrested. She has forgotten her family after marrying him,” Majid said.
Kishandeep, however, said, “We are very happy that she has converted. We had no issue with their relationship, they are our children and my son has always been honest about it.
“It’s not only that a Muslim girl has come to our community, a girl from our community has earlier married into theirs,” he added.
Khushi’s family says they don’t care anymore about Khushi.
“We don’t care what she does anymore. Farman is our only son, we want him out of jail,” said her mother, 50-year-old Banisha, who kept weeping, accusing Sumit of “brainwashing” her daughter, and alleged that his family “conspired” to destroy their reputation.
Amreen said, “My fiancé and brother need to come home. Khushi has deceived us and landed us into this mess. Even people from our community are blaming us for their sons being arrested and questioned by the police.”
The family also claimed both Shahrukh and Farman were at home when the violence broke out and had only gone later to the spot.
Both sides blaming each other
Majid had filed a missing complaint on 18 March, following which the police traced the couple and brought them along with both the families for counseling at Sunlight Colony police station just a couple of hours before the violence broke out.
“She only called once around 11 pm, it was a short call. I couldn’t believe that she was talking without any pressure so I filed the complaint,” Majid said.
As soon as the counselling ended, alarm bells rang as both parties received calls about the mob attack.
“The counselling session was tense, both parties were hostile towards each other. We explained to the woman’s family that their children are consenting adults,” a senior police officer said.
Sumit’s neighbours and family members, however, held 36-year-old Shabana, who was arrested Wednesday, responsible for the mob attack.
“Everyone is blaming Shabana. We are not related to her, we have nothing to do with the violence,” said Amreen.
“Shabana is the main reason behind the violence, she went around provoking the men, she used casteist slurs, even said, khoon ki Holi khelenge (We will play blood with Holi),” said Varsha Varediya, a resident of Harijan Basti, whose scooty was damaged by the mob.
Shabana lives in a Muslim-dominated locality nearby, but isn’t an immediate neighbour of the couple.
Shabana’s sister Sitara and father Sulaiman, however, refuted the allegations, saying that she had gone to the spot of violence to disperse the crowd and had only said, “Ab khoon ki holi kheloge kya? Ghar jao (Will you now play Holi with blood? Go home)”.
“The boys got angry after some people from Sumit’s family’s mocked the Muslim community here saying Aaj tumahri ek ladki uthaya he, aage aur lenge (Today, we picked up one of your girls, we will pick up more in future),” said Parveen, Shabana’s neighbour.
People from both communities said they have always lived in peace and maintained cordial ties in the area, but the violence over the wedding appeared to have created a gap.
They maintained that while they don’t blame each other’s communities for the unruly events, the “vibe” has changed completely.
“Since the incident, we are avoiding crossing that Muslim locality. Who knows they might harm us as well,” said Veer, who lives in Harijan Basti.
The lane passing through Harijan Basti is used by both the communities to commute.
Asked if Muslims and Hindus in the area live cordially, Sitara said, “Muslims and Dalits in the area have lived peacefully always, there has been no communal tension. We have not had problems before.”
(Edited by Debalina Dey)