The Rajasthan Police on Wednesday said that they have tracked down a same-sex couple in Chennai, days after they had gone missing and had posted a video saying they want to live together, PTI reported.
The couple – a 17-year-old girl and her 20-year-old teacher – went missing from their homes in Bikaner’s Sri Dungargarh town on July 1. Their disappearance had led to protests by local Hindutva groups and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, who alleged that it was a case of “love jihad” as the minor is a Hindu and the teacher is a Muslim. The minor girl’s family also supported the allegation.
“Love jihad” is a debunked conspiracy theory according to which Muslims lure Hindu women into romantic relationships in order to convert them to Islam.
An unidentified senior police official in Rajasthan’s Bikaner confirmed that the couple was traced in Chennai and that authorities were in the process of bringing them back, according to The Indian Express.
“Teams of Rajasthan Police are presently in Chennai and we are also coordinating with the Chennai Police,” the official said. “The police tracked and got to them today morning. Prima facie it seems that they had gone to Chennai on a train.”
According to the police, upon their return, the minor will be produced before a Child Welfare Committee, which will decide whether to send her back to her family or to a government shelter.
After the couple went missing, the minor’s family held a protest outside the Sri Dungargarh police station seeking action in the case. They alleged that the teacher kidnapped the girl and brainwashed her, according to PTI.
On the basis of a complaint by the family, the police booked the teacher, her father and her two brothers under sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to kidnapping and criminal conspiracy, as also under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan, Rajendra Rathore, who met the girl’s family on Tuesday, also alleged that the minor had been brainwashed by her teacher. He said he will take up the matter in the Assembly.
However, on Monday, the couple released a video, in which the minor girl said that they had left their homes wilfully as they are in love with each other.
“We are lesbians and cannot marry any other man, therefore we decided to elope,” she had said. “And if you catch us, then our life will end. Don’t file any case against their [her partner’s] family members. The case of kidnapping is wrong. I am not a small girl who can be coaxed.”
The teacher also denied that she had brainwashed the minor girl and urged people not to engage in violence.
Meanwhile, the Rajasthan State Child Rights Protection Commission said they have taken note of the case, The New Indian Express reported.
“We received information through various news sources,” Sangeeta Beniwal, the head of the commission, said. “Following this, we gathered details of the incident from the Bikaner Superintendent of Police. Instructions have been issued to expedite the investigation and provide the commission’s office with an accurate report of the facts.”