A tale of controversy: SHC upholds girls’ will in forced marriage case

Both the Hindu girls’ parents claim they were kidnapped, forced to convert and marry

Z Ali January 14, 2015
Both the Hindu girls’ parents claim they were kidnapped, forced to convert and marry. PHOTO: EXPRESS

HYDERABAD: The controversy surrounding the forced conversion and subsequent marriages of two underage Hindu girls may remain a mystery. Several contradictions in the claims and counter-claims surfaced as the case was being heard at the Sindh High Court Hyderabad bench on Monday.

One of the girls, Mavi Kohli, affirmed her parent's stance of her abduction, forced marriage and conversion. The other girl, Badal Kohli, however denied any coercion in her marriage and acceptance of Islam. Both were allegedly kidnapped from their katcha homes in Arain village, Badin district, by local influential landlords in the last week of November. But the Arains claim otherwise.

The parents of Mavi, who was renamed as Hameeda after her conversion, claimed her age was 13 years. However, the court-ordered medical report placed her age between 16 to 17 years. Badal, alias Zeenat, is older.

The SHC order, issued by Justice Azizur Rehman, also reflected the wishes of both the girls against what were the contention of their parents and husbands. Mavi deposed that she was kidnapped, converted and was married at gunpoint to 62-year-old Mir Muhammad Arain. But her elder relative, Badal, stated that she willfully converted and married 26-year-old Khamiso Arain. The court ordered Mavi to go with her parents and Badal with her husband.

The controversy began soon after their alleged abduction when Veenjho Kohli and Shambho Kohli registered FIRs against the Arains at Tando Ghulab Laghari Police Station. The Kohlis also mobilised social support from among their community to retrieve their girls.

The All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat condemned the incident and demanded justice.

A team of over half a dozen Hindu lawyers reportedly provided voluntary services to fight the case on behalf of the Kohlis, who were the respondents in the case.

The separate, yet simultaneous, petitions were filed on December 1, 2014, by Khamiso and Mir Muhammad who accused the Kohlis of harassment and forced attempts to retrieve the girls.

"We have been working as peasants of these influential people for the last several decades," said Veenjho. "They keep exploiting us one way or other."

The stance of Shambho, Badal's father, was the same as Mavi, though his daughter denied the Kohlis' accusations. "My daughter has given her statement [in the court] under duress. She has been threatened with dire consequences against her and her family," he had claimed, while speaking to the media after the last hearing on December 18, 2014.

At the last hearing, Badal was allowed to live with her husband. Justice Zafar Ali Rajput, who heard the case, ordered Mavi to stay at Darul Aman until the judgment.

However, Mavi prayed to the court to let her live with her parents. A surety of Rs500,000 was later submitted by her father to take her home.

For his part, Khamiso, claimed that his wife, Badal and Mavi, had both converted to Islam of their own free will. Mavi was married to an older man because no other person was willing to keep her at their home fearing backlash from the family, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2015.


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