Srinagar, Jan 14: On February last year Gulzar Ahmad, a youth from Kupwara, and Ritu Khandelwal, a girl from Barmer district of Rajasthan, recorded a statement before J&K High Court that they are major and have tied the nuptial knot out of their free will.
The high court ordered both J&K Police and Rajasthan counterparts to provide protection to the couple and that they shall not be harassed.
Ritu converted to Islam out of her free will and filed an affidavit before the court before getting married, says Gulzar. Ritu was given a Muslim name, Zainab.
On learning about the marriage of their daughter, her parents filed a case with Rajasthan police, terming it another case of ‘love jihad’.
“Videos were circulated in which I was accused of kidnapping their girl. Hate campaigns were launched against me,” Gulzar says.
It was when a team of Rajasthan police visited Kashmir and tried to take away Ritu, the couple then moved High Court against the police as well as girl’s father, seeking protection.
After the directions from the high court, the couple thought their troubles were over and accordingly, the couple moved from Kupwara to Srinagar where Gulzar started to work in a local café.
The girl’s family accepted the marriage and her relatives including her cousins, uncle and aunt came to Kashmir. “They spend many days with us,” says Gulzar and showed photos on his phone in which the girl is seen with her relatives at tourist destinations cheering and enjoying.
While the couple was living peacefully, the girl’s uncle, who according to Gulzar is a lieutenant in army, had different ideas.
“In September last year, the girl’s uncle who is posted in Badami Bagh Cantonment Srinagar, invited us for lunch. We went to meet him and had lunch with him and his wife. He treated us well,” says Gulzar.
However, Gulzar says, he got shocked of life on November 26 last year when Zanib was not home, a rented accommodation in Rajbagh Srinagar.
“The landlord told me he saw Zainab going out in the afternoon alone. I called her phone but it was switched off. I contacted every person I knew, but everyone was clueless,” he says.
After exhausting all means to find her spouse on his own, Gulzar says he went to the police station Rajbag and filed a complaint. A few days later, he says, a Hindi newspaper cited Zainab as part of a story of ‘homecoming of a girl from love jihad’.
The report alleged that she was “brainwashed and lured into love jihad” by a Kashmiri youth.
Gulzar says that Zainab was kidnapped and taken forcibly by a relative. “I have no doubt that she was taken back home forcefully and is under pressure to speak whatever she is saying.”
On Sunday, Gulzar says he was shell shocked as a premier news channel ran an intro of the girl in which Zainab is seen saying she was forced to convert to Islam and made to eat mutton etc. “We met in 2015 and fell in love,” says Gulzar who had moved to Jodhpur Rajasthan in 2014 and started working as a chef in a restaurant. Gulzar met Zainab at the place where he was working. “She proposed that we shall get married and we moved accordingly,” Gulzar adds, insisting that there was nothing of sort as has been “sought to be protected.”