A lawyer for the Madhya Pradesh government claims to have “counselled” a 27-year-old Hindu woman “for a long time” last month to convince her to call off her marriage with a Muslim man, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. The state’s High Court sent the woman to her parents after their lawyers and the government advocate talked to her in a judge’s chamber.
The couple had eloped and married in September 2017. In court, the woman repeatedly said she wanted to be with the man. However, lawyers for the woman’s parents and the government argued that she was “confused” and should be heard in the judge’s chamber, where only she and the lawyers would be allowed. She changed her mind after the meeting.
This came just days before the Supreme Court restored the marriage of Hadiya, who converted to Islam to marry Shafin Jahan last year. Setting aside a May 2017 order of the Kerala High Court that had annulled the union, the Supreme Court said “marriage and intimacy of personal relationships” were at the “core of plurality in India”, and the state could not interfere in it.
‘You won’t be able to even see the sun’
Neelam Mehroliya expressed her wish to be with 24-year-old Sameer Khan “thrice”, government lawyer Archana Kher told The Indian Express. But the lawyers in the chamber told her the marriage could create a “law and order issue” in Mhow, where she lives. On Khan’s suggestion the couple could move to Delhi, the lawyers said she would have to spend her life in hiding and would not “be able to even see the sun”.
Mehroliya probably changed her mind because she realised the marriage would “create problems for both families”, Kher, who represents the home department, said. Sameer Khan is now looking at legal options to get his wife back.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has supported the woman’s parents and called it a case of “love jihad”. “We want to ensure that the alliance is broken,” local leader Prakash Khandelwal was quoted as saying.
Mehroliya was produced in the court on February 26, a month after Khan moved a habeas corpus petition in the High Court’s Indore bench, alleging his wife was being illegaly detained by her parents. Her parents had allegedly blocked communication between the two after she came home to try to convince them about the marriage. She had come to her family two days after their marriage in September 2017, after the family filed a missing persons complaint.
“We rejected marriage proposals for her even from Hindu families because the [caste] did not match our specification,” the woman’s father Laxman told The Indian Express. “How can we even think of marrying her to a Muslim, that too an uneducated person without a steady income?”
Khan has studied up to Class 10, claims to be a designer at a boutique and earns around Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 a month. Mehroliya is a post-graduate in commerce, but Khan says this was never a concern for her. Khan’s family supports the marriage.
Her family claims Khan met her through Facebook by faking his identity, but Khan says they met through a mutual friend in 2015. The family also said the marriage documents Khan submitted in court were forged. The court did not contest the documents, however, and said Khan could take further legal action if he wanted.
“We convinced her that the marriage wouldn’t do any good for her,” Kher said. “We told her to stand on her own feet, find a job and wait a year or two. And that if the boy waited for her, she would know [whether he loved her].”
Judge JK Maheshwari dismissed Khan’s claim that Mehroliya was in illegal detention. He asked her parents to maintain “a good atmosphere at home...so that the girl may adjust herself...and may live happily”.
The woman’s family now plans to get her married soon. Meanwhile, Khan alleged he had got death threats from unknown phone numbers.