Two weeks ago, a girl from Madhya Pradesh’s Indore district went to a government hospital for child delivery. The hospital staff, on noticing that she was still a minor, called up the local government child welfare body. When the team questioned the girl, it came to light that she was from the Hindu community and had eloped with a Muslim man, who made sexual relations with her.
The man, Mohammed Sohail, has been booked for kidnapping, rape, penetrative sexual assault on child and forcible religious conversion. He has been arrested.
Child welfare committee has termed the case as “love jihad”
The first information report (FIR) in the case was filed on 21 February at Indore’s Sanyogitaganj police station (number 81/2022)). As the girl’s parents did not come forward to file a complaint, the FIR was filed on the statement by station in-charge of Sanyogitaganj police station, Anuradha Lodhi.
The statement in the FIR (accessed by Swarajya) says Anuradha Lodhi received a letter from Child Welfare Committee of Indore on 21 February about a crime committed on a child (letter number 2021-22/1753).
The Committee had found that a girl, who was 17 years old, had given birth to a premature baby girl on 17 February at state-run PC Sethi Hospital in Indore.
The girl was counselled by ChildLine (a social organisation that works with the ministry of women and child development) in front of the Committee on 19 February. The girl, Manisha More (name changed, surname retained), told the team that she had been lured by a man named Mohammed Sohail (suspected to be about 21) into making physical relations with her several times on the pretext of marriage.
Prima facie, the case appeared to be of child marriage and “love jihad”, the Committee’s letter to the police said.
FIR registered on 21 February
The police subsequently filed an FIR and booked Sohail under various sections of the Indian penal Code including 363 (kidnapping), 366 (abducting) and 376 (2)(n) (committing rape repeatedly), along with sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
The POCSO sections invoked are namely 3 (penetrative sexual assault), 4 (punishment for penetrative sexual assault), 5j(ii) (rigorous imprisonment), 5I (penetrative assault causing grievous hurt), 6 (punishment for sexual assault), 16 (willful misrepresentation) and 17 (abetment). Additionally, Sohail has been booked under section 3 & 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.
For the girl’s age proof, the Committee provided her medical reports and a a copy of Aadhaar card to the police.
What the police say
This correspondent called up investigating officer of the case, Sandip Patel, on 23 February. The officer said that Sohail was arrested earlier in the day, and the girl was yet to record her statement in front of the magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC.
The officer said the baby, born premature, died within four days.
The sub-inspector said that even before the FIR was registered, the police arrested Sohail on 18 February as a “precautionary measure”. He was released on bail the next day but arrested again after filing of the FIR.
The officer said that the girl told the police that she had been in a relationship with Sohail for several weeks and they married last year. She told the police her family “accepted” the relationship after she went with him.
The officer further said that the girl’s parents ‘fled” the hospital premises after the staff involved the state administration on learning that she was a minor.
The girl’s parents have not come forward to record their statement with the police, the officer said.
The girl, after death of her child, has since been shifted to a private hospital.
Both Sohail and the girl’s family are financially weak, and work of daily wagers.
This correspondent could not talk to the Child Welfare Committee as phone numbers of current members have not been updated on the government website. However, one of the members, Pallavi Porwal, has been quoted in the media as saying, “During the investigation, the team found that the girl is minor and a 21-year-old man of another religion was claimed to be her husband. Family members of the girl fled from the scene after which police deployed a lady cop for her protection.”
As the case involves a Muslim man and a Hindu girl, it has caught the attention of Hindu activist groups in the area. Tannu Sharma, a local Bajrang Dal leader, told this correspondent that cases of “love jihad” are rising in the state and this case, too, falls in the same category.
(The report has been edited by Swati Goel Sharma).
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