A minor Hindu girl from Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand went missing on 4 November.
Her family told the police she was abducted by a group of Muslim men namely Shahid Ansari, Arbaz Ansari and four others for the purpose of conversion-nikah. Eleven days later, the police have recovered the girl from Bangalore.
As per reports, police have arrested two people including Shahid, and booked him under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act while identification of other suspects is on.
News agency ANI quoted Superintendent of Police (SP) Hazaribagh, Manoj Ratan Chhote, as saying that if any evidence of religious conversion also comes up during investigation, they would add relevant charges to the case.
In the First Information Report (FIR) filed by the girl’s mother Shanti Devi after her daughter’s disappearance, which this correspondent has accessed, her statement says that on 4 November 2022 around 2.30pm, Shahid Ansari, his brother Arbaz Ansari and four others barged into her house and took away her 16-year-old daughter.
They abducted her daughter for forced conversion-nikah.
They also looted her house. They took jewellery worth around Rs 3,33,000 and cash of around Rs 25,000.
The men came on two motorcycles.
Her statement further says that Shahid Ansari had abducted her daughter in June 2022 as well, but the girl returned after her mother filed a police case.
(This correspondent accessed that FIR - number 73/2022 - which mentions the date of the girl’s disappearance as 2 June).
Shanti Devi’s statement further says that Shahid’s family members including his father Mukhtar and mother Anjuman came to her house five-six months back. They proposed marriage between Shahid and the girl.
When Shanti devi turned down the proposal, the family threatened her with consequences, saying, “If your family wishes to live in peace in this village, you will have to accept our demand and marry your daughter with our son. Else, we will take your daughter from your home”.
The complaint by Shanti Devi, who lives in Bela Peto village that falls under the jurisdiction of Keredari police station, concludes here.
Ever since the minor girl went missing, members of a group named Sanatan Samaj Hazaribagh began staging protests, demanding arrest of the accused.
A volunteer, Aman Kumar, was quoted in the media as saying that the case follows the pattern of ‘love jihad’, and the accused wanted to forcibly convert the girl to Islam.
On 10 November, the group called for a hunger strike until the arrest of the accused.
These agitations prompted the police to launch an investigation into the case. Police teams traced the minor’s location to Bangalore and rescued her. They also arrested Shahid.
ANI quoted Hazaribagh SP Manoj Ratan Chote as saying, “We have rescued the girl from Bangalore, and the accused have also been rounded up. A case has been registered and the girl’s statements are being recorded.”
This correspondent called the station in-charge of Keredari police station, Sadhan Gorai. He said that the two arrests made so far are of Shahid and his father Mukhtar.
The officer said that another suspect, Arbaz, had tried contacting Shahid and police teams were looking for him.
He added that the victim recorded her statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) on the same day she was recovered from Bangalore.
Asked if there is any sign of forced conversion so far in the investigations, the officer said that this was not the first instance that the minor had “eloped” with Shahid.
“That time, she gave a statement that she wanted to go with Shahid. She made this statement before the magistrate as well as the Child Welfare Committee,” the officer said.
He said that prima facie, this was a matter of “love” and not forced conversion.
He said the victim went through a detailed medical examination on 16 November. He concluded his statement to this correspondent saying that more details could be made available only by his senior officers.
It is pertinent to mention here that if a minor girl or boy chooses to go with an adult, legally the act is considered as kidnapping by the adult.
Conversion of a child against the will of his or her parents is also considered forced despite the child’s consent. This has been reiterated by the chairman of the National Child Commission several times.
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