The Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh has been in news for several months now, for a spate of so-called ‘love jihad’ cases.
Hindu outfits and residents say that Muslim men are trapping Hindu girls in relationships for religious conversions or targetting them for sexual assault. The area is inhabited by several tribes and most victims are said to be Hindu tribal girls.
In February, body of a 20-year-old Hindu Dalit woman named Kamini was recovered from a well in Gokulgao village of Khandwa. In no time, the police declared it to be a case of suicide.
However, after relentless chasing of the case by the woman’s family, it has now emerged that the death has a connection with a man named Mohammed Armaan Khan. The accused has been booked for abetment of suicide and arrested.
A cousin of Kamini has told the police that Kamini was in a relationship with Armaan, who was threatening her to elope with him and marry, blackmailing her with their sexual pictures.
Abetment Case Filed A Month After The Body Was Found
The first information report (FIR) in Kamini’s death was registered at Moghat Road police station on 21 March (number 127/2022). It was more than a month after Kamini’s body was found on 10 February.
The complainant is a sub-inspector from the police station (the name is not mentioned in the FIR).
The statement says that on the morning of 10 February around 8am, dead body of a woman was found from a well. The cop sent the body for post-mortem and filed a case under Section 174 of The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which relates to suicide by a woman (case number 7/2022).
When Kamini’s parents were questioned, they named a suspect, Armaan Khan son of Nawab Khan, saying that the “Muslim man” had forced Kamini to commit suicide. Her parents said that Armaan used to talk to Kamini over the phone and, when she refused to marry him, he threatened to harm her reputation. Kamini had jumped into the well to escape his threats.
The statement further says that when these allegations were probed and call details of the suspect recovered, there was sufficient evidence for filing a case against him for abetment of suicide.
The police booked Khan under IPC sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 294 (reciting or uttering obscene acts and songs) and 506 (criminal intimidation). As the girl belonged to Balahi jaati (also called Balai or Bhalay and are traditionally weavers), sections 3(2)(va) and 3(2)(v) of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, has been additionally invoked against him.
Suspect Armaan Khan Arrested
This correspondent called up the Moghat Road police station on 3 March. A sub-inspector named Nagesh Kumar talked about the case. He said that the police had closed the case believing it to be suicide, but later investigation revealed the role of Armaan Khan and he was subsequently booked and arrested. SI Kumar said Kamini and Armaan seem to have been in a relationship for at least a year.
He said that the last call made by Kamini before her death was to Armaan. It was around midnight on the intervening night of 9 and 10 February.
SI Kumar informed that the police seized Armaan’s mobile phone as well. The chats revealed that Armaan was pressuring Kamini to elope and marry him. He used highly abusive language. The police also found “obscene” pictures of them in Armaan’s phone.
Asked if Armaan has accepted the charges against him, the officer said that he has denied all the charges levelled at him. However, police is going by call and chat records, he said.
SI Kumar said that the case was handled not by him but by another SI named Priyanka. However, after the family and villagers protested against her “lackadaisical” approach to the case, staging an agitation outside the police station, the case was handed to a senior police officer in Khandwa – Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Lalit Ghatre.
CSP Ghatre could not be reached by the time of filing this report. His number was constantly “out of network coverage area”.
Family Did Not Know About Armaan And Kamini
This correspondent called up Anil Dashore, Kamini’s cousin, on 30 March. Anil is son of elder brother of Kamini’s father Devram. He said that Kamini was pursuing her Diploma in Education (D.Ed) course. The family did not know she had a friend who was a boy.
In January, Kamini’s college closed for a month and she went to Indore to spend time with her sister Sulochana, who is married. On 9 February, Kamini returned home along with Sulochna from Indore.
Kamini’s mother prepared a special meal for dinner. After eating at 9.30pm, they all went to sleep. Around 3.30am, when Kamini’s mother Sakku Bai woke up, she found that Kamini was not on her bed. She informed her husband Devram, who said that Kamini must have gone to their neighbouring relative’s house that was hosting a wedding that night.
The couple went to bed. In the morning, when Kamini did not return as late as 8 am, they started looking for her. Soon, Devram was accompanied by his brother Shivram and son Bhagirath.
Soon, the locals informed them that they had found a body floating in an abandoned well in the village. They took the body out and, to their shock, discovered that it was Kamini’s. The police took the body for postmortem the same day.
“Her body was swollen. It had changed its colour. We knew she was dead,” says Anil.
“The police told us that our sister [Kamini] had committed suicide. That’s all. They dismissed our protests that somebody must have driven her to suicide,” he says.
A local had taken out a mobile phone kept in the pocket of Kamini’s dress. The family gave the phone to the police, asking them to use it for clues.
Anil said that in their jaati group, people do not step out of the house after death of a family member for a month-and-a-half. In recent times, people have begun to break this rule but only for urgent matters.
In this case, some male members made rounds of the local police station to know about the progress in investigation.
“Officers at the police station were always very rude to us. They would shout at us and ask us to leave, saying they were busy in important matters,” Anil says.
Several days passed like this. They never received any response from the police other than “reports are yet to come”.
Kamini’s father then wrote down his complaint in detail and handed it to the Khandwa Superintendent of Police. The process took an entire day.
Anil says that after that letter, the police retrieved call details of Kamini’s phone number. “The call records say that Armaan called up Kamini 15 times that night. Details of the previous four days revealed that he had called her 160 times,” says Anil.
(SI Nagesh Kumar, when asked about the call details, said that he recalls that the number of the calls was “high” but could not confirm the figure cited by Anil. He said that only CSP Ghatre would know it).
Anil says that the officer who later investigated the case – sub-inspector Priyanka – did not show any willingness to probe Armaan’s role despite the call records.
On suggestion by another police officer from the same police station, the family talked to many of Kamini’s friends and cousins for clues. After some prodding, a cousin of Kamini named Rekha made some revelations. She said that Kamini was seeing a Muslim man from the village and he had been pressuring her to elope and marry him.
Rekha told them that she was the only person in the family who knew about the relationship between the two. Rekha was subsequently questioned by the police. As per Anil, Rekha told the police that Armaan and Kamini had been in relationship for the past one-and-a-half years. She said she warned Kamini on several occasions that Armaan is a Muslim and their relation just wouldn’t work.
Rekha once overheard Kamini speaking to Armaan. He was rude and abusive. Rekha told Kamini that it was not a good sign. “If he is so abusive now, what better can you expect from him in the future?" Rekha said.
When Rekha suggested Kamini call off the relationship, Kamini shared this with Armaan. An angry Armaan told Kamini that “usko agar zyada garmi chadh rahi hai, toh bhej de mere pas utar dunga" (I will fix her, send her to me). This was revealed to Rekha by Kamini herself.
Rekha told the police that Armaan and Kamini met in Indore several times, and that later Armaan asked her to elope and marry him. In days leading to her death, Armaan had been blackmailing Kamini using pictures of their sexual intimacy.
Anil says that Kamini’s father works as a house painter. Kamini had three siblings – two sisters and a brother, all of whom are married.
He said that their village has about one-fifth of the population as Muslims.
About Kamini’s death, Anil says, “Only God knows if she jumped into the well herself or someone pushed her”.
Anil says what has happened with his cousin is “love jihad”.
More Such Cases Reported From Khandwa
At the same Moghat Road police station, a Hindu woman filed a case against a Muslim man last month, alleging that he lured her in a relationship by lying about his name and religious identity.
The woman, a nurse, said that Mohammed Amjad posed as Rahul Sharma. She filed the case when she found that not only he had lied about his religion, but also his marital status: Amjad was already married and had children.
The case was filed on 22 March. The police booked Amjad under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act besides IPC 376 (rape).
The case was reported in the local media. When asked about it, SI Nagesh Kumar said that Amjad had been arrested. He declined to share details of the case, such as the FIR number, saying it was a sensitive case.
In January, a minor tribal girl filed a case against two men - including caretaker of a Sulabh Shauchalaya complex in Khandwa - of raping her and filming the sexual act. Swarajya reported the case, which can be read here.
Again in January, a woman named Madhuri Yadav filed a police case against Mohammed Salim for raping and forcing her to convert to Islam. A first information report (number 7/2022) was registered at Moghat Road Police Station the same month.
In February, a minor girl went missing from the Khalwa area of Khandwa. Probe revealed that one Mohammed Arif alias Golu from her village had abducted her with an intention of raping her. He even forced her to marry him and convert to Islam.
In January, another such case had come to light. A man named Danish met a Hindu girl Roshni online. The two developed a relationship. Later, Roshni filed a case against him that he made sexual relations with her promising marriage, but stopped all contact with her after it. She said that she called him, Danish told her his work was over and blocked her. An FIR (number 60/2022) was registered at Khalwa Police Station.
(The report has been edited by Swati Goel Sharma).
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