A Hindu teenager at the centre of a forced conversion controversy is scheduled to appear before the chief justice on March 12 when it is hoped the truth will emerge.
There are two versions to this story. In one, Rinkle Kumari fell in love with Naveed Shah, eloped, converted at Dargah Bharchoondi Sharif and married him. In the other, she was kidnapped, forced to convert and marry him.
Rinkle’s father Nand Lal has enlisted the help of lawyer Noor Naz Agha who filed a petition. Agha told The Express Tribune over the phone that the problem was how the case was handled.
When Rinkle was produced before a Ghotki civil judge on February 25 she asked for two days to think over her situation. But instead of sending her to a shelter, the judge handed her over to the police. Agha felt this was wrong because Rinkle is a victim and not an accused person. It was while she was in police custody that she came under tremendous pressure. When she made a statement in front of the Mirpur Mathelo civil judge two days later, she spoke in favour of Naveed Shah.
Given that this has happened, Agha has requested the SHC to now allow Rinkle to record her statement in an environment free from pressure.
Meanwhile, a lawyer has filed a petition in the Sindh High Court’s Sukkur bench, requesting police protection for Rinkle and Naveed.
Rinkle’s family says she was kidnapped from home in Mirpur Mathelo on February 24.
They blame Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Mian Abdul Haq and his men. They say she was taken to Bharchoondi Sharif, where one of the MNA’s supporters, a man named Naveed Shah, forced her to convert and married her, albeit without her consent. There has been an outcry and Hindus, Christians and Sikhs protested in Karachi on Sunday. The matter has even been brought up in the Sindh Assembly.
Amid these developments comes a protest by people from the shrine where Rinkle and Naveed are said to have sought refuge.
The supporters of Dargah Bharchoondi Sharif have rubbished allegations that the shrine was involved in the forced conversion and marriage. On Tuesday, the dargah’s supporters marched 13 kilometres from Daharki to Mirpur Mathelo where they packed Bhittai Chowk to register their protest. They maintain that the forced conversion allegation was just an attempt to malign the dargah.
The protest was led by the dargah’s Mian Mohammad Aslam and Mian Shaman of Bharchoondi Sharif. They claimed that the couple took shelter at the shrine.
Aslam said that he immediately contacted Rinkle’s parents and the president of the Hindu Panchayat in Daharki to inform them that the couple was seeking shelter at the shrine. He said that her parents did not come to the dargah even though he waited for five hours. After this wait, he claims that Rinkle embraced Islam and was married to Naveed Shah.
“Nobody can be converted by force,” he said, “because neither Islam nor the law of the land allow it.” Aslam also maintained that Rinkle was allowed to meet her parents separately twice but she went against them. When she was presented in court, he said, she was not under pressure and gave a statement under oath that she wanted to go with her husband.
Aslam said that thousands of non-Muslims have embraced Islam at the shrine and not a single person has claimed to have been forced.
Informed sources from Mirpur Mathelo claimed that Rinkle and Naveed lived in Sufi Mohallah.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2012.