Every other day, platforms like Organiser and similar outlets highlight cases of “love jihad,” a term denoting a pattern of criminal activity involving interfaith relationships facilitated by false identities. This term gained prominence in 2014, following the Tara Shahdeo case in Jharkhand. Recently, a special CBI bench handed down a life sentence to the perpetrator in this case. Despite such frequent occurrences, Hindu girls and women often prioritize their lovers over their religious identity. In a recent case from Madhya Pradesh, a vanvasi woman, victimised by religious extremism, stated, “I have embraced secularism all my life, but I will suggest others to look for their partner’s religion first.” Shedding light on the hardships she endured, she added, “If he were a Hindu, he would never have treated me like this.”
As per the First Information Report (number–884/2023) registered at the Damoh Kotwali of the Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh on October 6, the accused person has been named as Shahbaz Khan. The victim as well as the accused live in Damoh, and following this complaint, the accused was arrested by the police.
Met Shabaz through a common friend
As per the FIR, the victim, a 20-year-old vanvasi woman, is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in commerce from Damoh. Through a common friend, she came into contact with Shahabaz and it became a trio. They started meeting frequently, sometimes even without their common friend.
They used to meet at Anand Restaurant regularly. Almost one and a half years ago, Shahbaz took the woman to Townverry Hotel, where, in a cabin, he proposed to her and said he would marry her. On the pretext of marriage, he made a physical relationship. After this, this became a constant place of meetings, and every time he used to have a physical relationship with her.
One day, he told her that to marry him, she would have to convert to Islam and the marriage would be solemnized as per Islamic rituals. This triggered her and she called off her ties with him. Since then, the accused man has been threatening her with dire consequences; he is following her, abusing her, and even reached her house to threaten her. Fed up with this, the woman lodged a complaint against him. She concluded her report by stating that the latest he made a physical relationship with her 20 days before Raksha Bandhan.
Booked under Anti Conversion Law
Based on her complaint, the accused has been booked under IPC sections 376 (rape), 376(2)(n) (repeated rape), 366 (kidnapping), and 506 (criminal intimidation), with sections 3 / 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act and sections 3(1)(w)(ii) and 3(2)(v) of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, also called the SC-ST Act. The accused was arrested on October 7 and the same day the victim underwent a media test.
She recorded her statement in front of the magistrate on October 7, under Section 164 of the CrPC.
“Hindu hota to esa nahi karta…” victim told Organiser
This correspondent called the victim woman on October 7, after she returned from court. Below are the excerpts from this conversation:
“I am a B.com. student and work as a data entry operator at a private firm. My father is a farmer and I am the eldest of all my siblings. I have been telling this story to many media people, maybe around 10 people before you. It is emotionally draining. Can we talk about the police action?” said the victim.
She comes from the gond janjati which falls in the scheduled tribe (ST) category.
This correspondent asked: A video of yours is in circulation where you are telling how the police took too long to act in this case. What happened now?
“I had to wait that day a lot; this is true; the accused walk freely while the victims face the police, make rounds of offices and whatnot. Soon after taking the FIR, police arrested the man. I am satisfied with their action,” she added.
The FIR says you have been in a relationship with Shahbaz; why a complaint after 1.5 years?
“I have been secular all my life. I am a Shiv Bhakt; my family is a staunch Hindu believer. They and I myself have been associated with Hindu social groups, but still, I always believed that there is nothing like religion when it comes to people. So, when I met Shahbaz, I had nothing like this in mind, he was my friend and so was I. We fell in love; he surely wasn’t but it was never about religion between us until I said yes. His behaviour changed since then,” she added.
What was it like with him? Did he ever force any practice that is prevalent in Islam on you?
“Passively, yes. I never thought about them before he asked me to convert but he used to ask me to follow some things common in Islam. Like, learning how to offer Namaz, I thought he was saying this, as I took him to temples. He used to ask me to cover my head. Every time, I ate before him, he used to say, ‘Bismillah karo… har kaam se pehle bismillah kiya karo..’,” she said.
She added, “He used to say that Burqa is the safest place for a woman, event woman should wear it. Those wearing Burqa never get raped or abused”
You call yourself secular; why did you not convert to Islam?
“I was secular but this does not mean that I am against Hindu Dharma. I am a Shiv Bhakt, I cannot live my life without worshipping him. I can never be a Muslim, that is why I left him,” She added.
What was your family’s reaction when they learned about this?
“Mam, he used to follow me on a daily basis, he even came my home threatening me, my brothers and other family members. We were frightened, even now, when I see him, I start shivering. He has said, bizarre things to me, I cannot tell you what I have been through in the past few months. I thought I would die,” she said.
“Had he been a Hindu, he would have never done this to me. Such cruel men can be Muslims only,” she said.
“I will now meet other Hindu girls and tell them to stay cautious” told victim
“My family has been my biggest support, from handling him, to talking to his parents and making me not lose hope, they have done it all. I live in a joint family and we are social people. I myself have been a people’s person, going into meetings, arranging them, attending them, I have done it all. When all of this happened and the neighbours and the family members get to know about this, I was terrified. It’s a tough feeling to lose that image you have in society. I locked myself in a room but my parents stood by me, and they are the reason I am here. They say, this is a war and we cannot turn back, we will fight this through, he will suffer,” she added.
Did you ever hear the term ‘love jihad’?
Yes, this means a Muslim man trapping a Hindu woman for conversion. Their end goal is conversion and “Apni kaum me jodna…” she said.
Have you watched the film, ‘The Kerala Story’?
“Yes, I did”, she said.
Now, can you relate to the stories shown in the film?
“Back then, I thought this is all fictional; it may be happening somewhere but not around me. Now, I believe in every story and angle shown in the film. These Muslims can go to any extent, in order to lure a person to their religion. The film is not false, I am a victim myself, I misunderstood them,” she added.
What do you want to say to other Hindu girls out there?
“I would like to tell them to, always check the religion of the person they are roaming around with. Even before getting into relationships, check thoroughly. I would suggest, that girls not fall for relationships on social media or any medium. Only your family can find a better person for you,” she added.
Are you willing to relocate after this?
“No, not at all. He is the one who cheated me, abused me and threatened me, why would I leave my town? It is difficult to face people but I will. I will go back to my social organisation, work there, will meet people and now will awake other Hindu girls to save them from this menace. I will not leave my town, nor will I turn back. This is just the beginning, he will pay for this,” She added.