HT Spotlight: Malerkotla talking ‘love jihad’ after Quran sacrilege

  • Sukhdeep Kaur, Hindustan Times, Malerkotla
  • Updated: Jul 11, 2016 17:20 IST
Cloth seller Ram Gopal. (HT Photo)

The retired government employee is now known as the man whose granddaughter “ran away” to marry a Muslim. He doesn’t want his name and neighbourhood mentioned but says a “love jihad” is taking over this Muslim town that’s uneasy since the June 24 sacrilege of Quran .

“My granddaughter (23) worked as a computer teacher in an English-medium school. We did not get a whiff of her intentions. On May 9, she did not return by her usual time of 4pm but rang up her mother to say we shouldn’t look for her, as she had married,” says the 79-year-old grandfather.

“After we got the court-marriage papers, we found out that she had converted and taken a new name, Ayesha, to marry a Muslim man who does odd jobs in shops on the Ludhiana bypass and earns just Rs 3,000, a third of what she did. He used to meet her on her way to school, always accompanied by another man who used to take pictures of them together. Maybe she was blackmailed. What is this if not love jihad? Who will marry her younger sister now?” he says, looking at Ayesha’s younger sibling sitting nearby.

Ram Gopal’s Muslim neighbour Akhlaq. Both Gopala nd Akhlaq say communal tension affected Eid sales in Malerkotla. (HT Photo)

The family has disowned Ayesha through a newspaper advertisement. Asked whether it tried to know her well-being, her younger sister says police made them talk to her on mobile phone. “She told us she was happy. We told her we have disowned her and she said she will never come to our door, seeking help. She took away all her documents, even her scooter,” she says with a wry smile.

Across the street is another family with a daughter who left the house to become Alia, two days after Ayesha. Youngest of three sisters (the other two married), she had lost her father years ago and her ailing mother lives with a caretaker. A neighbour says that before Alia left home on May 11, he saw her taking away bundles of clothes on her scooter. “They (Alia and Ayesha) were friends. Perhaps they planned it together. But it is not the first time that Hindu women have eloped to marry Muslims. There is a local committee to help Muslim men in these court marriages,” he says.

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The buzz about “love jihad” in Teliya Bazar nearby leads you to the homes of the two women. With Muslim shopkeepers next door, Hindu and Sikh traders show a WhatsApp message from a Sikh woman who married a local Muslim industrialist, which says ‘they lure you and then dump you’. “But no family from the town has reported any elopement,” says Sangrur senior superintendent of police (SSP) Prithpal Singh Thind. It is not hard to know why. Even if police lodge a complaint, the case falls flat if the wife is not minor and has a court-marriage certificate.

Next to his grandson’s garment shop, lives Krishan Chand (82), who says the town’s peace is undisturbed if a Hindu woman marries a Muslim. “But if a Muslim woman converts to marry a Hindu, there will be communal tension.”

Next: Past and present Muslim MLAs agree on ‘AAP hand’ but Malerkotla disagrees

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