Communalism

Advocate Who Facilitated Wedding of Interfaith Couple Alleges 'Harassment' by UP Police

The police are on the lookout for the couple, who have gone into hiding out of fear for their lives.

New Delhi: Mohommed Hashim Ansari, an advocate based in Delhi, says that he is being “harassed” by the UP police for helping a woman who came to him in November voluntarily wanting to convert to Islam. The woman later married a Muslim boy named Javed Ansari who belongs to Jalesar, Eta, Uttar Pradesh – the same district as her.

Advocate’s kin arrested, taken to unknown locations 

Almost ten people from Hashim’s family, including his father, elder brother, cousin, cousin’s friend, three brothers-in-law, father-in-law, father-in-law’s brother and his son have been arrested and taken to unknown locations over the last two days, he says. “They think that I am hiding the woman, and are telling me to produce her as if I know where she is,” he says. The latest arrests – of his father and elder brother – happened on Tuesday (December 22) morning.

Of the eight, he has only been able to speak to his brother-in-law briefly, who told him that he was asked if he knows Hashim Ansari, and when he said that he did, he was taken by the police. Later, around noon today he received a message from his brother-in-law saying, “We are being sent to jail. You please handover the Hindu girl to the police, otherwise we will be sent to jail by this evening.”

Hashim says that it is possible that the police sent this message from his brother-in-law’s phone. The police are on the lookout for the couple, who have gone into hiding out of fear for their lives.

The story so far 

On November 18, a Hindu woman named Ayushi Pachauri reached Ansari’s chambers in Delhi and asked him to help her legally convert to Islam. Ansari made an affidavit, which she signed, attesting that she has consciously and voluntarily converted to Islam and is under no pressure. She took a new name, Ayesha.

“She was so interested in Islam that while doing the rituals in front of the Qazi, she wrote the kalima on her own, without any help or assistance from anybody else,” Hashim recalls. “I said okay, if she is voluntarily doing so, who am I to question? She had come alone and seemed like a very bold girl. Ten days later, she married a Muslim boy named Javed.” Hashim also helped the couple with the court papers during their wedding.

In the marriage affidavit available with The Wire, Ayesha writes, “That I fell in love with one Mohd. Javed Ansari… whom I love from my heart.” She also wrote that she was getting married to him without any pressure, coercion or undue influence. She attests that she has converted to “Muslim religion…with my free will and consent without any force, pressure, coercion from any corner, and without consuming any intoxicating substance.”

Also read: An Interfaith Couple Faced Violence, a Miscarriage and Arrest. We Can’t Say ‘No Harm Done’.

For about three weeks after the wedding, Hashim says, the couple lived in Delhi without any trouble. But on December 17, the groom’s brother came to meet Hashim and said that his wife had been arrested by the police. “He (the brother) has two little kids, and their mother was taken by the police for something she had no involvement in,” Hashim says.

Some members or the Bajrang Dal, who have been actively involved in tracking cases of inter-religious marriages and filing cases against them, had also forced some of Javed’s relatives to shut their shops in Jalesar. This prompted Ayesha to send a declaration to the SSP and SHO of Jalesar, saying that her husband’s family members should not be harassed as she voluntarily married her husband. She also wrote to the National Commission for Women, seeking protection and explaining that she embraced Islam out of her own free will.

Complaint 

December 17 was also the day when the girl’s father, Praveen Pachauri, filed an FIR against Javed at Jalesar police station nuder Section 366 of the IPC, and sub clause 1 of sections 3 and 5 of the new Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.

Afterwards, Hashim wrote an application to the SSP and the SHO Jalesar on behalf of Ayesha, saying that she has voluntarily married Javed and his family members should not be harassed because of this. The application, titled, “Legal information regarding marriage and not register any case against the husband of my clientess”, reads: “My clientess is a major and educated lady and possesses sound mind and is not prone with any disease, and therefore, is competent to convey her life as per her choice and will and without any interruption from any side.”

It further reads, “It has come to the notice of my clientess by a reliable source that some miscreants from the RSS and Bajrang Dal are creating nuisance in Jalesar and they have closed the shops of relatives of husband of my clientess… that my clientess and her husband have not committed any offence and that our constitution gives us right and power and personal liberty to convey their life as per their choices and will.”

Also read: Legal Howlers in UP’s ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law Expose its Real Intent

Police says investigation will continue 

Krishan Pal Singh, SHO Jalesar police station confirmed that the woman had written an application declaring that she voluntarily married Javed. “But the issue is registered with us, and we have to investigate it. Now it will be sorted out in court only. The girl should come to court and give her statement. Now she is missing, and it is our duty to find out where she is.”

He says that the UP police had gone to meet the woman at Hashim’s chambers, but she never turned up. He also asked why Hashim, as a lawyer, is taking so much “personal interest” in the matter. He did not comment on Hashim’s accusations of his family members being taken to unknown locations.

Couple ‘missing’ 

On December 21, Hashim tried to speak to the couple but was unable to do so. “Their writ petition for protection was also ready, they just had to come in for a statement but they have disappeared. They are extremely scared for their life, and the girl kept telling me that she will be shot, or killed in some other way.”

All his attempts to the reach the couple have failed so far as their phones have been switched off.

Note: This article was updated with the information that the advocate’s father and elder brother were also arrested on Tuesday morning.