‘Husband Pushed Me Into Prostitution’: Why A Burqa-Clad Woman Publicly Talked Of Converting To Hindu Religion
Visuals of a burqa-clad woman staging a protest outside a police chief’s office in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, threatening to convert to Hindu religion if she fails to get justice, went viral two days ago.
The woman told the several news channels present at the spot, that she is a victim of forced prostitution by her husband and in-laws and has left her marital house.
She said that she is nine-months pregnant and wants her husband to pay her maintenance. You can watch her statement here.
The Story Behind Her Protest
Swarajya contacted the woman yesterday (20 March), and she said she had approached the police several times in the past, but no action was ever taken on her complaints.
Tired of police inaction, she reached the Muzaffarnagar Superintendent of Police’s office on 16 March and shared her plight with the reporters present, she said. Soon, several news channels arrived at the spot and she gave her statement in public.
Muskan hails from Bijnor district, about 50 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar. In 2018, her father Sharafat Hussain married her to a resident of Muzaffarnagar’s Behra Sadat village named Ali Sher. The wedding was conducted under Islamic rituals on 4 March 2018. It involved significant amount of dowry, she says.
Within a year, Muskan gave birth to a daughter.
Her marriage was not pleasant from the beginning. Her mother-in-law Zarina, father-in-law Israel, elder brother-in-law Gulsher, younger brother-in-law Farman and sister-in-law Shakira were unhappy with the dowry she had brought. They taunted her often for not bringing a car.
They physically assaulted her over trivial issues.
Soon, they began to exploit her sexually, saying that it was to compensate for the lack of dowry.
Muskan told Swarajya that her two brothers-in-law began forcing her to have sex with them, with full consent of her husband.
“They made me do that even when I was in the seven month of my pregnancy with my [first] child,” she said.
After the birth of her daughter, her situation worsened. Her husband began bringing his male friends to the house. “He made me have sex with them. I was forced to do it nine times. I don’t even know the names of half of those men,” she said. “They would pay my husband.”
Muskan says she tolerated the abuse for four years for the sake of her daughter and also because she did not want to be a burden on her parents.
Muskan is fifth of her parents’ eleven children — four sons and seven daughters.
All her brothers stay and work in Mumbai as labourers while her father runs a tiffin business in Bijnor to sustain the family. The youngest two daughters are yet unmarried.
The family belongs to the Julaha caste, who are from Hindu weavers and form the largest caste group in the Muslim community. The term ‘Julaha’ is a derivative of a Persian word for weaving.
Muskan says her family is not well-off, but managed to give considerable dowry in terms of assets such as furniture and kitchen items.
Police Case Filed On Day Of Protest But Prostitution Allegations Ignored
Swarajya accessed the first information report (FIR) filed by Muzaffarnagar police after her protest. It was filed at Mahila Thana on 16 March (number 83/2023).
Her statement recorded in the FIR mentions only dowry-related harassment and threats of unilateral talaq but completely omits her allegations about forced sex and prostitution.
The six people named in the FIR — her husband, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law and sister-in-law — have been booked under IPC sections related to dowry and causing hurt.
The sections invoked are 498-A (harassment), 323 (causing hurt), 504 (intentionally insult), 506 (criminal intimidation) and sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Act.
When asked, Muskan said the police ignored her allegations related to forced sex, telling her that those would be investigated unofficially.
Swarajya called up the investigating officer Renu Saxena from Mahila Thana of Muzaffarnagar. The officer said that the matter is being investigated and accused would be arrested soon. She did not answer the questions related to Muskan’s allegations of forced sex.
‘My Husband Should Pay Maintenance’
The FIR mentions that Ali Sher is threatening Muskan of talaq. However, Muskan told Swarajya that about three months ago, when she was six-months pregnant, she left his house on her own.
“I was tired of being treated like a prostitute. I could not take it anymore. My daughter is growing up,” she said.
She has been living with a relative in the Muzaffarnagar city since then. “My father doesn’t earn that much. It would be really tough for him to bear my burden now,” she said.
Muskan said that another reason for her stay in Muzaffarnagar is that she wants police to make Ali Sher pay her maintenance. “I do not want my marriage back. I do not want to go to that house ever again. But I want maintenance for my children. How will we survive otherwise?” she said.
Asked why did she tell reporters that she would convert to Hindu faith if she did not get justice, Muskan said that it was an appeal to her religious community.
“Yes, I will convert to Hindu religion. I have not found even one person in my own community who has helped me. Not even my brothers. I am staying with a relative, but without any respect,” she said.
Asked if any Hindu organisation or mediapersons gave her that idea, Muskan said that no, it was one of her cousins who did it. “A male cousin suggested that to me, hoping for community support,” she said.
Muskan says that her delivery is due before 23 March, but her husband has not made any effort to check on her well-being or offer any support. “He never did. He is an alcoholic and has even started doing drugs,” she said.
She told Swarajya that if she fails to get any maintenance from her in-laws, she would commit suicide.
Muskan said that she had learnt from neighbours of her in-laws that the family had locked the house and shifted to an unknown location.
Cases Of Similar Nature
Incidentally in the same area, a Muslim family of 12 members converted to the Hindu religion alleging betrayal by their religious community, particularly from the upper-caste people.
One of the four sons of 64-year-old Akhtar Ali was found hanging from a hook in a room in Newada village of Baghpat district, which is adjoining Muzaffarnagar. It happened at a time when Akhtar’s newly bought land in Newada had been usurped by goons.
Akhtar alleged murder by the same men who wanted his land. A panchayat was held, which comprised of Muslims mainly from the dominating Jat caste, and did not support Akhtar in his fight for justice for his son and his land, Akhtar told Swarajya in a ground visit.
Eventually, Akhtar, who belongs to the Nai caste, was forced to leave his land and shift to a neighbouring Hindu village.
Akhtar and his family went though a ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony comprising of a Havan, recitation of Hindu mantras and aartis, and change of name from Arabic to Sanskritised Hindi words.
Members of a Hindu organisation helped the family get an accommodation in the village.
Besides this, another case had come to light in 2021 where a woman appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath through a social media post to save her from dowry-related harassment at the hands of her family and in-laws.
When this correspondent contacted the woman, Hina Khan, she said that her husband and in-laws were pushing her into prostitution at home to compensate for the meagre dowry she had brought after marriage.
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