//Saffron villain in Hindu-Muslim love story

Saffron villain in Hindu-Muslim love story

SOUMIK DEY, Financial Express, October 10, 2006

SURAT, OCTOBER 10:  When 21-year-old Amir Raza eloped and married his sweetheart of four years, 19-year-old Swati Khare, little did he anticipate the extent to which saffron groups Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal would go against them.

After getting married in a civil ceremony in June at Chitradurg, near Bangalore, when the two returned to Kosamba town to meet their parents on September 19, activists of the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini allegedly forced Swati to file a police complaint against her husband and then undergo an abortion. She was then held against her wishes at her brother’s house in Karelibaug, Vadodara, from where she escaped on October 3 and was reunited with Amir at the Surat railway station.

According to the couple’s October 5 representation to the Surat Police Commissioner, all the Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal activists did all this with the consent of Swati’s parents. On Saturday, accompanied by friends, the couple turned up at Gujarat High Court to submit a writ petition seeking the quashing of the police case against Amir. They are now in hiding.

The nightmare began when Swati went to meet her parents. They allegedly contacted Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal activists over phone: one Bhavna Gajjar and her husband Nagin Gajjar arrived and forced Swati to go with them.

The couple’s statement to the Surat Police Commissioner says she was taken by car to Kosamba Police Station, where she was forced to file a case of assault and dowry harassment against Amir. It says Sub-Inspector J K Rabari took sides with the Gajjars and threatened to kill her and her husband in an encounter unless she filed the complaint as told.

The statement says she was then taken to Bharuch and admitted to the Riddhi-Siddhi Maternity Hospital, where Dr Hema Parmar conducted the abortion on September 26.

Amir told The Indian Express on Saturday, "My wife was 63 days pregnant. The doctor gave her an overdose of Trygon MF, a medicine to subside abdominal pain. She is still bleeding." According to the statement, Swati was then brought back to Kosamba, where some Hindu activists tried to force her to sign divorce papers. On refusal, she was kept confined at her brother's house in Vadodara.

"She managed to flee on October 3 and we met at Surat railway station. All this while, I was also in hiding as they would frequently come to our house and threaten my parents. Police would also come looking for me after the false case was registered. Swati and I went into hiding at a friend’s vacant flat in Surat," said Amir.

Their advocate Ilyas Patel says that after the high court petition, the next step is to register criminal cases of abduction, forgery, and forced abortion. He says Swati was admitted to the hospital under the name Sonal Khatri.

Bajrang Dal stands its ground on what it has done. Its Gujarat unit president Ranchod Bharwad said, "Love jaisa kuch nahi hota hai." He asked why Hindu women marrying Christians or Muslims are asked to change their names, and points out that, in the couple’s statements and court petition, she calls herself Mariam Mirza. Don’t think this is only our concern. In fact, many such parents have approached us for help,” said Bharwad. “Swati underwent an abortion on her own will. But now she has changed her statement only to win back her husband’s confidence." Swati’s father, a section engineer with W Railway in Vadodara, has reportedly asked Amir to come to their home with his daughter and peacefully sign divorce papers. "I don’t think we will do it," Amir said. "Swati and I are very committed to each other."