For decades, Organiser has been dedicated to serving Bharat. At a time when much of the media claimed to be ‘secular’ and ‘liberal,’ distancing themselves from stories impacting Hindu lives, Organiser boldly shed light on those cases. We also exposed a pattern of crime where fraudsters preyed on Hindu girls and women for conversion. One of these victims, featured on our magazine covers, has finally received justice after a painstaking nine-year wait. Tara Shahdeo, a name that resonated nationwide, was a victim of what is commonly referred to as ‘Love Jihad’—a term once dismissed as a mere fabrication. The term love jihad was first heard in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala around September 2009. Justice KT Sankaran observed that ‘an alleged Muslim plot used to forcefully convert young Hindu girls to Islam falls in this category’ and demanded the state to enact a law to curb such crimes. However, many states still live in disbelief. With hundreds of documented cases, this term has now gained some recognition and many states are coming up with stringent laws to curb the menace.
We would like our readers to know that, on October 5, 2023, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Court handed down sentences to the convicts found guilty in the Tara Shahdeo religious conversion case. Rakibul Hasan, alias Rajeet Singh Kohli, Tara Shahdeo’s former husband, was sentenced to life imprisonment, while his mother Kaushal Rani received a ten-year prison term. Additionally, Mustaque Ahmed, the former registrar of the High Court who was accused of hatching the conspiracy and using his power and position, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Before delving into the court’s observations, let’s review the case.
On August 19, 2014, Tara Shahdeo’s brother reported to the police about the abuse his sister was enduring at her in-law’s residence. That very day, the police rescued her from Rajeet’s residence at R-4/D, Blair Apartment, Ranchi. Subsequently, a case (First Information Report number—742/2014) was filed at the Hindpidi Police Station, invoking sections 498A (harassment of women) and 34 (acts committed by multiple individuals with a common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. Tara identified her husband, Rajeet Singh Kohli, and mother-in-law, Kaushal Rani, as the accused parties.
In her statement to the police, Tara explained that her marriage to the accused, Ranjeet Singh Kohli, was solemnized on July 7, 2014, as per Hindu rituals. After the wedding, she resided with her husband and mother-in-law, Kaushal Rani. The day following the ceremony, a Kaazi was summoned to officiate her Nikah in accordance with Islamic customs and beliefs, as directed by her husband. He made it clear that unless she underwent this process, he would not consider himself her husband. From then on, Tara alleges she endured various forms of torture and was prohibited from making phone calls to anyone. It is further claimed that on August 13, 2014, her mother-in-law instructed her not to interact with household staff.
Tara asserts that her husband, in a fit of rage, slapped her on the left ear, resulting in an injury and swelling. Following this, he took her into a room and brutally assaulted her with his elbow, causing further injury. Visible signs of this abuse were evident on her body when she was rescued by police. The accused parties allegedly threatened her, warning that if she disclosed the assault to her father and brother, she would face severe consequences. They also menaced her with false accusations against her family members, instilling enough fear to prevent her from reporting the incidents.
Tara claims she was provided meals at untimely hours and lived in fear of intimidation, even from a pet dog. She was denied proper sleep, and the accused allegedly forced physical relations upon her. On August 19, 2014, when her husband was absent from the residence, she confided in her brother, leading to her rescue by the local police from the residence of accused Ranjeet Singh Kohli.
Following the case, the police investigations began and a chargesheet (number—211/2014) was submitted by the Investigating Officer of this case on October 23, 2014.
Following the submission of the chargesheet, CJM Ranchi took cognisance of the case and the charges were reframed against the accused person under sections 498-A/34 and 496/34 of the IPC, through an order dated December 15, 2014. Following the revision in charges, a supplementary chargesheet (number—44/2015) was lodged.
The victim and family were unhappy with the decision and hence a writ petition (No.4400/2014) was filed in this case at the Ranchi High Court by an organisation called Akhand Bharat, demanding a CBI probe. With an order dated May 22, 2015, the High Court of Ranhci handed over this case investigation to the CBI.
Furthermore, the said FIR No.742/2014 was re-registered by the CBI, SC-I, New Delhi, as RC-09(S)/2015-SC-I on August 10, 2015, and further investigation was taken up. The charges added were 120B (criminal conspiracy), 496 (dishonest marriage), 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 298 (uttering words to hurt religious sentiments), 354A (sexual harassment), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 498A (harassment of women) of IPC. Mushtaque Ahmed and Kaushal Rani were called by the CBI for investigation, whereas prime accused Ranjeet was in judicial custody.
During the CBI interrogation, Tara made shocking revelations about what happened at her in-law’s house and how she was forced to convert to Islam.
Tara told the CBI that, between May 30, 2014 and June 15, 2014 Sports Authority Jharkhand organised a summer shooting camp at Khel Goan Shooting Range. Being a national shooting player, she and three other senior shooting players, namely Nishant Singh, Ravi Kumar Sharma, and her brother Dwed Nath Shahdeo, participated as coaches. In this camp, 14 shooters participated, including Ranjeet Singh Kohli and Md. Mushtaque Ahmed.
Ranjeet introduced himself as a big businessman, whereas Mushtaque Ahmad introduced himself as the Registrar (Vigilance) of Ranchi High Court. They started practising and became friends. Mushtaque Ahmed told Tara’s brother that Rajeet’s father and brother died some time ago and that her mother was not keeping well. He also knew that Tara’s mother had died some time ago and it would be better if he considered marrying his sister to Ranjeet, of whom he takes full guarantee as a guardian.
When Tara found out about this, she said she was not willing to get married and wanted to focus on her shooting game.
On the closing day of the camp, June 15, 2014, Rajeet and Mushtaque did not join in and invited Tara, her brother, Nishant Singh, and Ravi Kumar Sharma for dinner at the residence of Ranjeet.
Tara achieved a remarkable feat, winning a gold medal in the match. When she arrived at Ranjeet’s house, she was greeted by his mother, Kaushal Rani, and two other household attendants. After a celebratory dinner, she was presented with a gold ring, artificial bangles, and clothes, a gesture symbolising their desire for her to become their daughter-in-law. Tara and her brother mentioned that their father was currently away but would discuss the matter upon his return. The following day, a man delivered a gift envelope containing two flight tickets to Patna along with Ranjeet’s biodata. Mushtaque expressed his wish for them to travel to Patna and meet with their father regarding the marriage.
Subsequently, the family collectively finalised the engagement date for June 20, 2014, adhering to Hindu customs. The engagement ceremony took place, and the wedding date was set for July 7, 2014. They explicitly stated that they sought no dowry, but requested that the wedding be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Ranchi.
To everyone’s surprise, Ranjeet introduced a unique condition before the marriage. He expressed an inability to partake in the Saptpadi ceremony (seven rounds of the sacred fire) and declined to apply Tika on his forehead due to an allergy. Despite persistent requests from the victim’s family, he remained steadfast in this decision. All other aspects of the ceremony followed Hindu traditions, except for the seven pheras and the application of Tika. He explained that he held a strong belief in OM and insisted that no idols of Kali or Durga should be present.
This, however, was just the initial shock for Tara in her journey with Ranjeet. As she later informed the CBI, upon moving into Ranjeet’s residence after the wedding, she woke up on July 8, 2014, to discover that all the pictures of Hindu deities that had adorned the walls were replaced with images pertaining to the Muslim faith. When she inquired about this change, both Ranjeet and his mother informed her that they practised the Muslim religion and expected her to do the same.
Ranjeet said, in society’s eyes, she might become a wife, but in reality, she would be his wife only when she performed Nikah and said Kabul hai three times. If refused to do so he threatened her with a fake arms act case against her father and a rape case against her brother.
Later in the day, Ranjeet brought a white salwar suit and asked her to wear it and come downstairs, and when the Kaazi came, she had to say Kabul hai – Kabul Hai. Before the Kaazi came there Mushtaque came to her bedroom and said, she had no idea where she was trapped, so it would be better for her to do as directed.
Some 15-20 people gathered at the drawing room which was parted with a curtain, Tara was asked to sit with Kaushal Rani. After that, Kaazi started reading something in Urdu and told Tara that she had accepted the Nikah; then she told Kabul Hai Kabul Hai three times. The same thing was asked by Ranjeet, who also told Kabul Hai. Then Mushtaque offered the witness Rs. 11,000 as Mehar, which was kept by the mother of Ranjeet. After that, Mushtaque gave her the Quran placed in the metal box and told her to follow it from today.
Later, the Kaazi asked Tara to tell the name of her father and when she did he said, “She is a Hindu”, to which Mushtaque said, she had accepted Islam. Then kaazi said, a conversion certificate is required, to which Mushtaque said, it would be presented at a later stage. Then kaazi brought a red register that mentioned her name as Sara Parveen and her husband as Rakibul Hasan. After reading this Tara refused to sign the register and underwent brutal torture. This included forced sexual relationships at gunpoint made by Rakibul (also, unnatural sex), smoking on her face both by Rakibul and her mother, frightening her with their dog and assault.
Tara lived in this hell hole for days to follow as she did not want any threat on her family members by Rakibul or Mushtaque, who were well connected. One day she opened the door and received an invitation to an iftar party by minister Haji Hussain Ansari dated July 18, 2014. The name on the card read Rakibul Hasan.
For the iftar party, she was not allowed to wear a saree and was instead forced to wear a black suit. Hasan who used to observe Roza took her to this party, where around 20-25 Muslim women were there. Mushtaque showed her intimate videos of her sexual act with Rakibul saying, he would do the same with her if she did not adhere to his demands. He also tried touching her cheeks and breasts.
On August 10, 2014, Tara went to her father’s house for Rakshanbandhan and before this, she was tortured and threatened so as not to open her mouth in front of anyone. On August 12, 2014, she returned to Rakibul’s house and did not say anything to her family members. On August 13, Kaushal Rani and Tara had an argument and Rakibul beat her up mercilessly. After this, Tara decided to tell everything to her family. On August 19, she finally managed to call her brother and inform him about everything going on in the house. The same day, police rescued her from Rakibul’s house.
As Tara’s condition was critical, the police first took her to Sadar Hospital Ranchi for a medical test and later she was admitted to RIMS hospital. Meanwhile, Mushtaque and Rakibul were trying to put pressure on the police not to take the case, however, the DIG helped Tara and the case was lodged.
Based on the victim’s statement and after listening to forty-three witnesses, the special CBI bench of Justice Prabhat Kumar handed punishment to the culprits on September 30, 2023. In his judgment, he observed the following factors:
- The judge, in the case of Rakibul alias Ranjeet, applying section 496 of the IPC pertaining to fraudulent marriage, noted that the accused concealed his true identity prior to the marriage. During the Hindu ceremony, he was aware that this union was not his intended nikah. Furthermore, he failed to inform the victim’s family about his actual intentions, constituting a fraudulent approach to matrimony.
- In regard to the charges under section 376 of the IPC, which pertains to sexual assault, the judge pointed out that although Rakibul participated in the Sath Phera, a fundamental ritual in Hindu marriage, he did not legally convert Tara to Islam. Consequently, their Islamic wedding was deemed invalid. In light of this, Rakibul was not recognized as Tara’s lawful husband, and his actions fell squarely within the definition of rape according to the specified section. As a result, the judge applied IPC 376(2)(n) in his sentencing.
- In accordance with section 506 of the IPC, the judge held all three named accused parties in the FIR accountable and administered punishment accordingly.
- Regarding section 298 of the IPC, which concerns offences against religious sentiments, the judge remarked that the accused coerced a Hindu woman into a nikah, uttering “Kabool hai kabool hai.” The victim attested to instances of abuse due to her religious affiliation. Consequently, the accused parties were deemed deserving of punishment.
- In the matter of Rakibul and Mushtaque, the judge found them guilty of conspiring and ensnaring an innocent victim. Therefore, they were sentenced under section 120B of the IPC.
- Addressing the prosecution’s inquiry about the victim’s changing statements, the judge clarified that the case involved influential individuals. Despite this, the victim’s account remained consistent, reflecting her dissatisfaction with the local police’s handling of the case. Subsequently, the matter was transferred to the CBI.
As per the judgment, the accused Rakibul is handed life imprisonment for sections 120B to be read with 376(2)(n), 496, 298, 323 & 506 IPC. Whereas his mother will serve ten years imprisonment, and the former judge, Mushtaque Ahmed, will serve fifteen years imprisonment.
Organiser called Tara on October 12 while she was at her husband Sanjeev Rajput’s house. She was busy with her 6-month-old baby when the correspondent called. She happily shared that she got married to three times Arjun awardee Sanjeev, who is an athlete.
Tara as of now, is working as an international jury in shooting. Earlier she served as a coach at Jharkhand Sports Academy from 2018 to 2022 and before that, she worked in Gujarat as a shooting coach from 2016 to 2018.
When asked about her 9-year-long journey she said, “I was never alone in this, my father, my family, the whole Shahdeo samaj and the media have been with me from day one. If the media would have not been this supportive, I would have never received justice”.
Asked how difficult it was for her, to explain to the police, this case. She said, “The police tried making this up as a regular domestic violence case, they even changed my statement. Every time I took the names of Mushtaque or the minister, they would shut me up. They never exactly wrote my statement. If the case was not handed over to the CBI, I am sure, my case was finished”.
Before this happened, did you ever hear anything about the term ‘Love Jihad’?
Tara said, “It was the media who asked me if I have become the victim of love jihad and then I came to know about the term. Then I came to know about the Kerala High Court Judgement where the judge mentioned this word. Now, I think every other day, a woman or a girl is becoming a victim of this menace. I don’t know for how long the governments will take to make a stringent law for this”.
About the judgment, she said, “Truth always wins Mam. I am happy with the judgement, this will surely help other victims out there. I am interacting with media, sharing my story with them so that no other woman faces what I did.”