SRINAGAR, JANUARY 14: On February last year Gulzar Ahmad, a youth from Kupwara, and Ritu Khandelwal, a girl from Barmer district of Rajasthan, recorded a statement before J&K High Court that they are major and have tied the nuptial knot out of their free will.
The high court ordered both J&K Police and their Rajasthan counterparts to provide protection to the couple, directing that they should not be harassed.
Ritu converted to Islam out of her free will and filed an affidavit before the court before getting married, says Ahmad. Ritu was given a Muslim name, Zainab.
On learning about the marriage of their daughter, her parents filed a case with Rajasthan police, terming it another case of ‘love jihad’.
“Videos were circulated in which I was accused of kidnapping their girl. Hate campaigns were launched against me,” he says.
It was when a team of Rajasthan police visited Kashmir and tried to take away Ritu, the couple then moved High Court against the police as well as girl’s father, seeking protection.
After the directions from the high court, the couple thought their troubles were over and accordingly, the couple moved from Kupwara to Srinagar where Ahmad started to work at a local café.
The girl’s family accepted the marriage and her relatives including her cousins, uncle and aunt came to Kashmir. “They spent many days with us,” says Ahmad as he showed photos on his phone in which the girl is seen with her relatives at tourist destinations cheering and enjoying.
While the couple was living peacefully, the girl’s uncle, who according to Ahmad is a lieutenant in army, had different ideas.
“In September last year, the girl’s uncle who is posted in Badami Bagh Cantonment Srinagar, invited us for lunch. We went to meet him and had lunch with him and his wife. He treated us well,” says Ahmad.
However, he says, he got shocked on November 26 last year when Zainab was not present at their rented accommodation in Rajbagh Srinagar.
“The landlord told me he saw Zainab going out in the afternoon alone. I called her phone but it was switched off. I contacted every person I knew, but everyone was clueless,” he says.
After exhausting all means to find her spouse on his own, Ahmad says he went to the police station Rajbagh and filed a complaint. A few days later, he says, a Hindi newspaper cited Zainab as part of a story of ‘homecoming of a girl from love jihad’.
The report alleged that she was “brainwashed and lured into love jihad” by a Kashmiri youth.
Ahmad says that Zainab was kidnapped and taken forcibly by a relative. “I have no doubt that she was taken back home forcefully and is under pressure to speak whatever she is saying.”
On Sunday, Ahmad says he was shell shocked as a premier news channel ran an intro of the girl in which Zainab is seen saying she was forced to convert to Islam and made to eat mutton etc. “We met in 2015 and fell in love,” says Ahmad who had moved to Jodhpur Rajasthan in 2014 and started working as a chef in a restaurant. Gulzar met Zainab at the place where he was working. “She proposed that we should get married and we moved accordingly,” Ahmad adds. (GNS)