Until recently, Bharti lived in her parents’ house and visited the local temple. Today, as Ayesha, she spends her time adjusting a black abaya and barely looked at her parents when she saw them in court on Saturday.
The girl with a new identity and religion was in court for the hearing of a case her family has filed, alleging the abduction and forceful conversion and marriage of their daughter to a Muslim man. The family filed the FIR 365-B at the Baghdadi police station.
“She is being pressurised to say that she converted because of her own free will - else we would be harmed,” cried her father, Narain Das. Her mother, a cardiac patient, was upset that Ayesha did not even glance at her. “She is my only daughter. She does not want to meet me or talk to me. I gave birth to her and raised her.”
Her case is the eighteenth in a series of forced conversions and marriages that have taken place in Lyari. Underage girls are threatened if they refuse to accept the conversion.
Narain Das brought a copy of the National Database and Registration Authority record which states that his daughter is 15 years old. But certificates of her conversion to Islam and her marriage claim she is 18.
“The marriage documents have tampered with her age. She is not of the age to get married,” said Das.
His new son-in-law Abid was handcuffed and chewed gutka as he stood in the court. Das’ family has accused him of kidnapping Bharti/Ayesha, while the girl’s relatives allege that Abid is a ‘wanted man’ in the area. “He uses drugs and has eyes for every girl. Our girl is just being fooled by him.”
Das isn’t opposed to his daughter converting to Islam. His son also converted and lives at home. “My son converted to Islam and lives with us. I have no issues with him. I have no issues with the girl either.”
“She should not be forced into converting,” Das states.
Amarnath Motumal, the vice chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was representing the Das family. This isn’t new for him – he has seen many girls forcefully converted and never returning home again.
“Her statement will be recorded on Monday. Let’s see what the court decides. Maybe it will be the last time her family will see her,” he said.
Before she headed to court, Ayesha said her marriage and conversion was a spontaneous decision. “I liked Abid a lot. I went to the market to meet him, and we decided then and there to run away.”
Her father-in-law Mohammad Anwar, a constable at the Preedy police station, did not leave her side for a minute. He twitched his moustache and flashed a big smile. “It is such a blessing for us, that a Hindu has embraced Islam. She always wanted to be a Muslim and has knowledge about Islam.” Ayesha told The Express Tribune that she only knows the Kalima.
The Das family fears that if the court releases Ayesha to Abid’s family, she will be sold or murdered. “We want a guarantee that we will be allowed to meet her and that she will be in safe hands. Another frustrated relative said, “We are all heartbroken. If we don’t get justice, we will all migrate from here.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2012.
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