A Dalit man from Aurangabad city (now Sambhaji Nagar) of Maharashtra filed a case against his ex-girlfriend and her family for forced circumcision (Khatna), extortion and caste abuse. After struggling for almost two long years, he finds no relief from the High Court as the accused and family were granted bail. Dipak comes from the Mahar jati. Dr Ambedkar also came from this jati.
Regarding the allegations of forced circumcision, the Court ruled that medical experts have failed to prove if the circumcision was done naturally or surgically. About the ‘Love Jihad’ angle the Bombay High Court stated that ‘Merely because the boy and girl are from different religions, it cannot have a religious angle. It can be a case of pure love for each other.’
The man Dipak Ramdas Sonawane alleged that the accused Sana Farheen Shahmir also showed him Zakir Naik videos. Sana was a participant in this year’s Shark Tank India and her brand also draws funds from the Sharks (investors) in the show.
When Sana’s family circumcised Dipak
Dipak met Sana at college in 2017, he studied mechanical engineering at the Matrathwada Institute of Technology (MIT) Aurangabad. Sana and Dipak fell in love and all of their friends knew about their relationship.
In a telephonic interview, Dipak told Organiser Weekly that he never hid his religious identity from Sana nor does she. In the beginning, she was open to accepting his religious beliefs. Towards the end of college, that is in their final year Sana’s behaviour changed a lot. She became more of the belief that Dipak should convert to Islam and change his name.
Earlier whenever Sana asked him to keep names like Anas, Asif and others he would simply ignore it. But by the final year, her demands intensified. She would show him Zakir Naik video’s where people were converting to Islam.
Dipak Ramdas Sonawane belongs to the Mahar jaati, “the same jaati as Dr BR Ambedkar”, he said when asked
He entered into a relationship with his classmate, Sana Sheikh, in engineering college. They planned to marry with consent of their families. But life turned upside down for… pic.twitter.com/AesKQd8s5E
— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) March 16, 2023
Dipak says Sana was not like this since always, she would go to the temple with him, although never entered the premise but she would go, he said. She was never this rigid about conversion. Her family knew about Dipak since the beginning of their relationship. During the lockdown, her parents said, Dipak should convert to Islam by undergoing mandatory ‘Khatna’ and only then he can have ‘Nikah’ with their daughter.
Dipak says, Sana’a family members did ask him to convert but they were not rigid until her father’s second marriage shocked the entire family. Sana’s father Shahmir Shamshoddin Shaikh married a Hindu woman in his second ‘Nikah’, and he also got her converted to Islam. The family after his ‘nikah’ was of the belief that if this Hindu woman can convert to marry her father then why not Dipak?
Dipak was very clear about his religious values, he said, ‘I told them I will remain a Hindu only. I am not asking Sana to follow my religion so she should also not ask me to leave mine’.
In March 2021, Sana’s family called Dipak to their house to discuss their marriage. At home, they beat him up and locked him in a room the same night they urinated on his face. The next morning, they took him to a hospital where the circumcision took place. At that time he was unconscious.
After this, Sana and her mother reached his house to inform him that he has now become a Muslim and can have ‘Nikah’ with her. Their relationship turned sour after this as Dipak distanced himself from Sana. He also tried to get a complaint registered against Snan’s family but the police took no action.
Series of FIRs from both Sana and Dipak’s side
Dipak then moved to the court. The court taking cognizance of the matter under section 156(3) of the CrPC (According to Section 156(3) of the CrPC, the magistrate authorised by Section 190 of the CrPC may direct a police officer to investigate if the police authority fails to carry out its responsibility, which is to record the complaint or FIR.)
After this move, Sana contacted Dipak again saying, he should forget everything and marry her as she is deeply in love with her but Dipak was not ready for this.
By then, the court decided that FIR will not be registered in the case but the proceedings will go as under section 202 of the CrPC as per this, the trial will go in front of the court and all the witnesses and statements related to the case will be recorded in front of the magistrate only.
In February 2022, Sana plotted a story to extort money from Dipak and get away from this case. She called him saying, she wants to live with him only and her family forcefully married her off to a Muslim boy. She needs his help to get out of this marriage and marry him. Dipak gave her a sum of 11 Lakh rupees in instalments. She also blackmailed him against circumcision saying she will tell everyone about it.
By then only Dipak’s mother knew about this.
The case at the court was on and on March 21, 2022, Sana’s father and uncle Khwaja Sayyed threatened him to take the case back. The same day they attacked him at the court premises. That day they forced Dipak to sign the compromise bond.
When Dipak asked for his money back, Sana filed a police case under charges of Molestation against him. A First Information Report (FIR), in this case, was registered at the MIDC Cidco police station on September 29 under IPC section 354 (assault outraging modesty). Dipak took anticipatory bail in this case. He also said that Sana and her family were forcing him to give more money.
Sana again told Dipak that she wanted to live with him and if he would have accepted the conversion as per her family there would have been no problem at all.
Meanwhile, Sana’s parents called Dipak and asked him to come to the cloud campus area to take his money back. There were goons equipped with sticks and Imtiyaz Jaleel the Member of Parliament for the AIMIM (All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen) was also there. Readers must recall AIMIM as Asaduddin Owaisi’s party. They thrashed Dipak until his condition was vulnerable, he was bleeding heavily and a police officer rescued him from there.
After this attack, Dipak gave a police complaint mentioning everything from the Khatna to the attack in presence of the MP but no action was taken by the administration. He says there was the name of Imtiyaz, the AIMIM MP in the complaint which is why his case never made it to the police files.
Before his complaint could get registered, Sana filed a false case of alleged rape against Dipak and his father. An FIR (number–363) under sections 376 (rape), 384 (extortion), 354 (assault), 354-D (stalking), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (an act done by several people with common intention) was lodged at the Chikalthana police station of Aurangabad.
Both Dipak and his father served a term of three and one months respectively in jail for this case. Later they were granted bail on the ground that Sana who accused Dipak of molestation in September 2022 formed another case stating he has been raping her since 2018.
After coming out on bail Dipak again reached the police station to register a case against Sana but due to the name of Imteyaz in it, no police station was accepting it. Ultimately he had to remove his name and a complaint was finally registered. Dipak’s First Information Report (number–299) against Sana, her father Shahmir, her mother Shabana Begum, uncle Sayyed and another person Sadiya Sadaf was registered on 2 December 2022.
All the accused in this FIR were booked under IPC sections 386 (extortion), 364 (kidnapping), 324, (use of a sharp weapon), 298 (religious hate speech), 34 (common intention), 504 (breach of peace) and 506 ( criminal intimidation), along with sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
From the beginning of the case, Sana and her family were out, first on interim bail from the sessions court and then from the Bombay High Court as the accused involved females.
In this case, the judgement of the Bombay High Court came on 24 February 2023.
What did the Bombay High Court say about ‘Love Jihad’
On February 24, the bench ruled that Sana and her family should be granted bail on grounds that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that any cast-based atrocity happened. The medical team did not find solid evidence about the said, ‘khatna’. The court also made remarks on the ‘Love Jihad’ angle in the case.
Here are a few excerpts from the judgement order (number–988/2022) by the bench of Smt Vibha Kankanwadi and Abhay S Waghwase.
The first is about circumcision, ‘The police papers show that there is evidence of circumcision. However, the expert was unable to say as to whether the said circumcision was natural or was due to any surgical intervention. The expert was also unable to say as to whether it was done by any medical professional or in a traditional way of Islam by an unauthorized person. He was also unable to say as to when it would have been done.’
The court about the caste-based abuse said, ‘Though the informant appears to have praying for action to be taken against accused persons since October 20, 2021 in which he has made allegations about pressurising him to convert to Islam and when no action was taken by the Police Commissioner, he has filed complaint before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Aurangabad. In the said complaint he had not made allegations about abuses in the name of the caste thereby making allegations that the offence under the Atrocities Act is also involved. If that would have been so, then the private complaint ought to have been lodged before the learned Special Judge under the Atrocities Act.’
The court on the Love Jihad angle said, ‘It appears that now the colour has been tried to be given of Love Jihad, but when love is accepted then there is less possibility of the person being trapped just for converting him into the other’s religion. The facts of the case i.e. contents of the FIR would show that there were many opportunities for the informant for severing his relationship with accused No.1 but he has not taken that step. Merely because the boy and girl are from different religion, it cannot have a religions angle. It can be a case of pure love for each other. ‘
Shark Tank and Sana Farheen Shahmir
Sana runs a clothing brand named ‘Forever Modest’. Clothes on this website include a full-body veil, Hijab, Jilbab etc. She was the contestant in this year’s Shar Tank India (season–2). She also get the funding for her brand in exchange for diluting twenty per cent equity of her company.
Shark Tank India is an Indian franchise of American Shark Tank where investors from the country invest in new businesses or entrepreneurs. After the massive success of season one, the show launched season two.
After the court judgement on 24 February, Sana made a pitch at Shark Tank India Season–2 on March 10, 2023. She asked for twenty Lakh rupees in exchange for 10 per cent equity but the deal closed at 20 Lakh for twenty per cent equity of her company.
The Sharks invested are Amit Jain, Anupam Mittal, Namita Thapar and Vineeta Singh.
Dipak Ramdas Sonawane met Sana Farheen Shahmir in 2017 & they fell in love. By 2020, Sana started forcing him to convert to Islam showing Zakir Naik's video, got him circumcised & extorted 11 Lakh rupees.
The same Sana got funding for her brand in this year's Shark Tank India: pic.twitter.com/CwR99dLjd9
— Subhi Vishwakarma (@subhi_karma) March 17, 2023
After this news came out, Dipak also mailed these Sharks about Sana and the case. So far no response has come from their side.
How awful is this that a Dalit man who was exploited financially, tortured physically, faced abuse against his case and even got circumcised by the so-called minorities of this country gets no relief from the law. On the other hand, the woman who used this man gets a lavishing career even after being accused of such a grave crime.
No matter what, the one on the losing side in an interfaith relationship is always a Hindu, the other side never loses they only win. Their motive was accomplished, they got Dipak converted to Islam, and their place on Jannat is booked. But what about Dipak, well he is ready to take this case to the Supreme Court, and he says he will make sure the accused get punished at any cost.
(Devidas Deshpande (correspondent Organiser) helped with the translations of the document from Marathi while Mayur Bhonsale helped with the reporting)