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New Delhi: After a Muslim man’s home and three of his shops were destroyed by the authorities in Madhya Pradesh’s Dindori district for eloping with a local Hindu woman, the Madhya Pradesh high court has directed the police not to take action on a kidnapping case lodged by the woman’s family, the Indian Express reported on Monday, April 25.
Justice Nandita Dubey of the Jabalpur bench of the high court directed the police thus while hearing a plea filed by the woman, 22-year-old Sakshi Sahu, in which the latter pointed out that she had married the man, 22-year-old Asif Khan, of her own volition.
According to the submissions by the petitioner (Sahu), the couple has been living together since April 7 this year.
Punished for eloping
On April 4, upon getting to know of the union, Sahu’s brother filed a first information report (FIR) with the police under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her to marry).
Three days later, the Dindori district administration razed three shops belonging to Khan’s family comprising an online service centre, a chicken shop and a tea stall, claiming they were constructed illegally according to the Express report.
On the same day, two local leaders – former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state minister Om Prakash Dhurve and the party’s district president Narendra Singh Rajput – launched a protest, blocking National Highway 45 and demanding that Khan’s home be demolished too. Thereafter, district collector Ratnakar Jha and sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Balbir Raman met the protesters.
कलेक्टर श्री रत्नाकर झा ने डिंडोरी जिले में छात्रा के अपहरण के मामले में आरोपी आसिफ खान के दुकान और मकान को जमींदोज कर दिया गया है। दो दिवस तक आरोपी आसिफ खान के दुकानों सहित उसके अवैध मकान पर कार्रवाई की गई है।#MafiaMuktMP#sashaktmp @CMMadhyaPradesh pic.twitter.com/Kcf6DIGAJC
— Collector Dindori (@dindoridm) April 8, 2022
The next day, amid heavy police presence, Khan’s single-story house, registered in the name of his father, Haleem Khan, was demolished, once again along with the claim that it had been built “illegally”. This prompted the family – Haleem Khan, his wife and his two unmarried sons – to leave the Dindori.
On the demolition, the Express quoted SDM Raman as saying, “There was also communal tension in the village. People wanted the house to be razed.”
The demolition of Khan’s home comes at a time where more and more reports are emerging of local authorities destroying “illegal” property and conducting “anti-encroachment drives”. What’s more, these incidents, more often than not, come after a communal scuffle.
In recent weeks, following communal clashes on and around the time of Ram Navami (April 10), reports of the homes of mostly Muslims being razed have come from Gujarat’s Anand district, Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, and Khargone in Madhya Pradesh itself.
In each of these incidents, the shop and home owners were judged to have been involved in recent communal clashes and their property was alleged to have been constructed illegally.
Following the demolition of Haleem Khan’s house, a video emerged online of Sahu affirming that she had willingly chosen to marry Asif Khan.
Sakshi Sahu, a resident of Shahpur in Dindori, MP, ran away with Asif Khan and got married last week after a long love affair. The family filed a kidnapping case. 1/2@KashifKakvi #MadhyaPradesh pic.twitter.com/F1cOk2IOMI
— Siraj Noorani (@sirajnoorani) April 10, 2022
Addressing the Dindori superintendent of police and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Sahu says in the video that while she chose to marry Asif Khan, her family opposed their marriage and filed an FIR “in a wrong way”.
“I want him and he wants me,” Sahu says in the video.
Demanding that action be taken against her family for the destruction of property belonging to Khan’s family, Sahu pleads to the SP and the chief minister, saying that unless action is taken within two hours, she and her husband would take their own lives.
While hearing the matter, Justice Dubey noted that according to the petition, the couple had been incorrectly advised to get married in a temple rather than through the Special Marriage Act (SMA).
The SMA is religion-neutral, allowing people of different faiths to enter into wedlock without converting to another faith; something that personal laws necessitate.
The couple submitted that they would get their marriage registered under the SMA hereafter.