SUKKUR: Ghulam Murtaza Channa and Manesha Kumari might never have met. He was a Muslim youth running a mobile accessories shop on Jacobabad’s Airport Road; she was a Hindu girl living in the city’s Gharibabad area. Then “love” found a way.
It all began with a missed call last year. The teenaged Kumari was dialling a relative’s number but disconnected when she realised she had got the number wrong. The number belonged to Channa. Curious, the man called back and the two got to talk.
A year after, Kumari eloped with Channa and embraced Islam at Dargah Amrot Sharif near Garhi Yasin in Shikarpur district. On Friday, the couple filed a constitutional petition in the Sindh High Court’s Sukkur bench, demanding protection from her parents.
“I started taking an interest in Islam in 2008, as we were taught Islamiat at school. My Muslim friends also used to tell me about the ‘true religion’ and I started liking Islam,” a confident-looking Mehwish told The Express Tribune.
“The call changed my life and we started talking on the phone and meeting,” she said. “As I had already developed an affinity for Islam, I was the one who forced Channa to run away and marry.”
At about 12:30 pm on August 6, Kumari left her house on the pretext of going to her tuition centre. She fled with Channa, who directly took her to the Dargah Amrot Sharif. There she embraced Islam and their nikkah was solemnised. She was renamed Mehwish.
“I have embraced Islam and married him out of my own free will, without any compulsion,” said Mehwish, categorically denying the claims of her parents about her kidnapping and forced conversion.
“I have not embraced Islam because I love Channa, but as a matter of fact I had developed a liking for Islam in 2008 and used to tell my friends about this,” she asserted.
“My parents brought me up and I love them too. I wish all the happiness to them,” she said. “Please let us live together in peace, because now I am a Muslim and a married woman.”
Channa, a post graduate, told The Express Tribune that Mehwish often used to pressure him to elope and marry, but he was reluctant because of the repercussions. “By the start of the new year, our love for each other became so strong that we finally decided to marry and here we are,” he said smiling.
“The couple had come to the Dargah on August 6,” said Syed Rushdullah Shah Amroti, the spokesperson for the Dargah Amrot Sharif. “When the girl expressed her desire to embrace Islam, we gave her enough time to think over it, but she said she wanted to embrace Islam immediately.” “We contacted the girl’s father and told him that his daughter wants to embrace Islam and marry of her choice,” he said. “But her father plainly refused to talk to us saying that his daughter has left home and is no more his daughter.”
Amroti claimed that people have been coming to the Dargah to embrace Islam for the past 150 years. “We fulfil all formalities before going ahead,” he added.
These kind of cases have prompted social workers to press the government to legislate on a six-month waiting period for young Hindu girls who may want to convert and marry for love.
Mehwish’s parents have accused Channa of kidnapping and forcibly converting Kumari to Islam. The court has, however, ordered the police to provide security to the couple.
Their counsel, Abdul Ghani Shaikh, talking to The Express Tribune said that the judge has directed the home secretary, SSPs of Jacobabad and Sukkur, and the SHOs of New Pind, Sukkur and Airport police station, Jacobabad to provide protection to the couple. The next court hearing is scheduled for August 16.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ