Neetu Yadav, a Hindu woman from western Uttar Pradesh, filed a police case against a Muslim man in November for entering into a sexual relationship based on false information about his identity and marital status.
At the time of filing the case, Neetu was six months pregnant.
Last week, her child was struggling for life in a hospital. The mother had no one to turn to; the father’s family bluntly refused to extend any help to save her life.
The first information report (FIR) in the case was registered 10 days before the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 came into effect.
Neetu accused one Akram Qureshi of ‘trapping’ her by pretending to be single, promising her marriage. When she became pregnant, he revealed his identity and began to pressure her to be his second wife. He began to force her to convert to Islam.
On Neetu’s complaint, the police booked Qureshi for rape, cheating and forgery among other IPC sections. He was arrested and continues to be in jail.
A week after Qureshi’s arrest, Neetu told Swarajya that though her advanced pregnancy did concern and intimidate her, she went ahead with the police case as he was dropping one shock after another about his identity and motive. She just could not trust him anymore.
She said that while she learnt about Qureshi’s real name and Muslim faith (he had introduced himself as ‘Aksh’) in the first month of her pregnancy, he told her about his marital status only several months later (he was married even as he claimed he was divorced).
Neetu said that she had no contact left with her own family after a dispute two years ago. She said she was banking on the support of a few friends in Loni town of Ghaziabad district.
Child On Ventilator, Mother Helpless
Neetu, a trained nurse specialising in child deliveries, had not anticipated the crisis she found herself in last week. She delivered the baby prematurely. A day after her delivery, her child showed no movement; only the heart was beating.
A local hospital asked her to take the baby immediately to government-run Safdarjung hospital (full name is Vardhman Mahavir Medical College & Safdarjung Hospital) in New Delhi, which is around an hour’s drive away.
No savings and limited support, Neetu came to New Delhi. A former colleague accompanied her. They checked at the hospital, but could not get a bed. The child needed immediate care.
On 9 January, these correspondents received a call from Neetu in the evening. Sobbing, she requested for money so she could take the baby to a private hospital. She sounded apologetic, as we had earlier helped her financially in starting her own nursing home.
With monetary support, Neetu got her child admitted to a private hospital in Dilshad Garden. The child was put on ventilator. For the next six days, the child remained on ventilator support. The hospital expenses were covered by us.
Every evening, the mother would go to Loni to attend to her nursing home and return to the hospital the next morning. The baby was discharged on 16 January. Since then, Neetu has been informing us about the baby’s well-being daily.
Where Is Qureshi’s Family?
She recently revealed that during the tensed week, she called up Akram’s father and mother for support. They listened to her, but did not offer any help, monetary or otherwise. Neetu says in that moment, she decided that if the child does not survive, she would stage a dharna outside Akram’s family with the body.
Akram’s father, said Neetu, has been pressuring her for an out-of-court “compromise” in the case.
He has offered her that if she withdraws the case, he would get Akram to give talaq to his wife Rukhsar and keep Neetu as his sole wife. “I, of course, have said no. I told him I don’t want to be Akram’s wife and it was very shameless of him to come up with the suggestion,” said Neetu.
Neetu said that she would not have agreed to a “compromise” even if Akram’s father had helped her in the crisis. “His family had a duty to help me. Is the child not Akram’s too?” she asked.
Neetu’s question has a legal answer: The child has a right to her biological father’s property and assets. Priyank Kanoongo, chairman of National Child Commission, told us that as per Indian law, the child’s rights are retained irrespective of a marital dispute between her parents. He assured that the commission would take up the case.
Neetu’s case raises several other questions too: Is the child Neetu’s responsibility alone? What if Neetu did not have our support? Why are victims like Neetu being 'invisibilised' by a section of the media and activists? Why is her child made to feel like an orphan even before she opened her eyes?
Neetu’s tragedy begins with a lie told to her to ‘trap’ her. The liar’s motivation was to eventually convert her to his faith.
Governments are only beginning to recognise this centuries-old problem and framing laws to tackle it.
On the other hand, an influential section of the media and activists are spinning political narratives to shield the culprits. Many are minting money by promising to show the problem as a big hoax.
Why? All because the accused comes from a community whose appeasement brings massive political and business gains for elites?
As we end this piece, we can’t help notice the hoarding ahead that reads “Beti Bachao”.
(Disclaimer: The authors of this piece have been helping Neetu Yadav financially through their foundation, Sewa Nyaya Utthan).
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
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