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Bengaluru woman was ‘confined, assaulted’ in Kerala yoga centre to stop inter-faith marriage

The woman said the people at the centre used to tell her Islam and Christianity were bad and intimidated her by threatening to kill her partner, a Christian man.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2017 23:54 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Kerala yoga centre,Inter-faith marriage,Ernakulam
The woman claims her parents took her to the yoga centre under a false pretext and was then locked in a room. She further alleged she was allowed to leave only after marrying a Hindu. (AFP File Photo)

A Bengaluru-based woman has alleged that she was forcefully restrained and physically assaulted at a controversial yoga centre in Kerala’s Ernakulam to stop her from marrying her Christian partner.

The centre she has named in her police complaint, Sivasakti Yogavidya Kendram, hit the headlines after two women filed similar complaints last month of having been restrained against their will in a bid to get them to leave their partners who belonged to other religions. The two women alleged that they were among 60-odd women who were forcefully restrained at the centre.

In her police complaint, filed on October 3, Vandana, a residence of Bengaluru who works at a life sciences firm, said she was kept at the centre for 31 days between March and May and forced to marry a Hindu man before she was allowed to leave.

Speaking to HT, Vandana said she was taken to the centre under a false pretext by her parents, who were opposed to her Christian partner. “My parents said they wanted to visit Kerala with me, and so we flew to Kochi. A couple of days after we reached my parents told me they wanted to visit a yoga centre to treat my mother’s knees. Once we got there, I was locked up in a room,” she said, insisting on only using her first name.

Vandana said the employees at the centre told her that she could be released if her partner decided to convert to Hinduism or if she married a Hindu. “I tried to escape many times, but they physically assaulted me every time I tried,” she said.

In her complaint, Vandana named the director of the centre Manoj Guruji; Sruthi the coordinator; and counsellors Smitha, Sujith, and Lekshmi.

Kochi police commissioner said MP Dinesh said he had not yet seen the complaint that was sent to him by email. “We get a lot of complaints in a day so I haven’t yet seen this,” he said. Most of the office-bearers of the Yoga centre are on the run after a police case against them two weeks back, and weren’t available for comment.

Vandana said the people at the centre used to tell her Islam and Christianity were bad and intimidated her by threatening to kill her partner. “I had also seen other women there who had been at the centre for around two years, so I was very scared,” Vandana said.

Finally, a friend agreed to marry her to help her get out of the place. “They insisted that the marriage had to be registered and so we got married at the Kanjiramattam Sree Mahadeva Temple in Idukki district,” she said.

Now, Vandana has filed for divorce and is waiting to marry her partner. But she says the experience had shaken her. “I had told my parents about my decision over a year before I was taken to the centre and we were waiting for their approval. I never expected this,” she said.

After she read news reports of the complaint filed against the centre she got in touch with Swetha Haridasan, the original complainant, and decided to become a party to the case.

First Published: Oct 06, 2017 17:13 IST