A Hindu man from a scheduled caste in Maharashtra has been left disappointed after the Bombay High Court granted anticipatory bail to his former Muslim girlfriend and her family, accused in his complaint of forced khatna (circumcision) and extortion.
In December 2022, the man, Dipak Ramdas Sonawane, accused the woman and four of her relatives of performing forced circumcision on him to convert him to Islam as a pre-condition for their marriage.
Dipak also accused them of extorting money from him to the tune of Rs 11 lakh, hurling casteist slurs at him when he failed to give more and of “love jihad”.
The court, however, said that the man had admitted to a love affair with the woman and “when love is accepted then there is less possibility of the person being trapped just for converting him to the other’s religion”.
About his allegations of forced circumcision, the court said that the medical expert called by the court failed to explain “whether the circumcision was natural or was due to any surgical intervention”.
The court gave the order on 24 February, 2023.
Dipak, who is 26 years old, told Swarajya that he would appeal in the Supreme Court, against the High Court order giving anticipatory bail to the accused.
A Brief History Of Love Affair And Police Cases Between Dipak And Sana
— How They Met And Distanced
Dipak told Swarajya that he met the woman, Shaikh Sana Farheen Shahmir, in 2017 when they were classmates in an engineering college.
The college, Marathwada Institute of Technology (MIT), is located in Aurangabad city. Readers may recall that last month, the Centre gave approval to rename the city as `Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar'.
Dipak says his relationship with Sana was known to her family, and he used to visit her parents often at their house.
The matter of religious differences between them did not arise strongly during that time, though there were casual mentions by Sana and her family that he would have to undergo a name change.
In 2020, however, the family clearly told him that he would have to undergo circumcision and conversion before their ‘nikah’ (marriage through Islamic rituals).
“All this while, I had been under the impression that I would continue to live as Dipak and my wife as Sana after our marriage, and we would have a harmonious multi-cultural life. But they had grown very serious about religion,” he says.
Dipak says that to his relief, Sana was “flexible” unlike her family and not rigid about religion. “But she changed, mainly during lockdown when she watched a lot of Zakir Naik videos,” he told Swarajya.
In March 2021, her family forcibly circumcised him, he alleges.
He narrates, “Sana’s family grew aggressive towards me. They began physically assaulting me over disagreements. Somewhere in March 2021, they called me home to discuss conversion, and beat me up when I protested. They kept me in the house the entire night.”
The next morning, they took him to a hospital, forcibly held him by his hands and feet and circumcised him.
He says two men urinated on him before performing the cut.
Dipak did not talk to Sana for several months after this. However, the two got together again as Sana told him that she wanted to marry him and live with him.
She told him that her family had married her off to a man from her community, and she needed money to end that marriage. Deepak gave Sana and her family Rs 11 lakh in several instalments.
Asked why he gave any money to her family members at all, Dipak said they were blackmailing him saying they would tell his parents about his conversion and circumcision. “My parents had no clue what was happening in my life,” he says.
— How Police Got Involved
The two sides first went to police late in 2021 when Sana filed a complaint against Dipak at MIDC Cidco police station on 29 September.
Dipak was booked under section 354 of the IPC (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty).
Dipak told Swarajya that the FIR was filed after he declined to pay more money to Sana’s relatives. “They were asking me for Rs 25 lakh more. I did not have any money,” he says.
As per Dipak, Sana called him on phone a day after the FIR saying her family had forced her to give a police complaint.
“She said she wanted to live with me. She told me that had I accepted my conversion wholeheartedly, there would have been no problems between us,” says Dipak.
The two got back together. However, Sana and his family kept on extracting money from him, he says.
Relations soured further and, on 3 September 2022, Sana filed a case of rape against Dipak at Chikalthana police station of Aurangabad Rural (FIR number 363). Dipak and his family were booked under IPC sections 376, 384, 354, 354-D, 506 and 34.
Dipak says this FIR, too, was filed after he failed to give in to their extortion demands.
Finally, Dipak filed an FIR against Sana, her father Shahmir Shamsuddin Shaikh, her mother Shabana Begum and two other persons namely Sadiya Sadaf and Khaja Syed on 2 December 2022 at Kranti Chowk police station in Aurangabad city (FIR number 299).
He alleged extortion, kidnapping, assault, forcible circumcision, religious hate speech and caste-based abuse. He gave the time of the said atrocities on him from March 2018 to August 2022.
The police booked the accused, including Sana, under IPC sections 386 (extortion), 364 (kidnapping), 324, (use of sharp weapon), 298 (religious hate speech), 34 (common intention), 504 (breach of peace) and 506 ( criminal intimidation), along with sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
It was in this case that Sana and her relatives had appealed to Bombay High Court for anticipatory bail. Before that, a sessions court had rejected their plea.
“No Religious Angle”: Bombay High Court
The Aurangabad division of Bombay High Court granted anticipatory bail to Sana and her family last week. The court said that the case was being given the colour of ‘love jihad’.
The court observed:
“It appears that now the colour has been tried to be given of Love-Jihad, but when love is accepted then there is less possibility of the person being trapped just for converting him into the other’s religion. The facts of the case i.e. contents of the FIR would show that there were many opportunities to the informant for severing his relationship with accused No.1 but he has not taken that step. Merely because the boy and girl are from different religion, it cannot have a religions angle. It can be a case of pure love for each other."
The court further said that as the caste or religion was not a barrier for the woman or her family in the initial relationship, then the question of raising it at a later time does not arise.
The court observed:
“When the initial relationship was good and the caste or the religion was not the barrier for them, then the question of raising the issue of caste or community or religion at a later point of time will not arise. It appears that thereafter the relationship was bitter."
About the allegations of forced circumcision, the court said that one, Dipak did not severe the relationship after that and two, the medical expert could not confirm whether the circumcision was “natural or due to any surgical intervention”.
The court observed:
“[Dipak] had not lodged immediate FIR, but then he says that thereafter also he had given money, online to [Sana]. [Dipak] states that he has transferred more than lakhs of rupees in the account of [Sana], still he had not severed the relationship.”
“The police papers show that there is evidence of circumcision. However, the expert was unable to say as to whether the said circumcision was natural or was due to any surgical intervention. The expert was also unable to say as to whether it was done by any medical professional or in a traditional way of Islam by an unauthorized person. He was also unable to say as to when it would have been done.”
Radicalised By Zakir Naik
Asked why he did not to go police soon after the circumcision or after demands of money started, Dipak told Swarajya that it was because his lady love, Sana, “had not been radicalised yet”.
He said that all through their relationship between 2017 and 2021 when the first FIR was filed, Sana had been “flexible” in matters of religion.
Even though she would repeat her family’s stance often that Dipak would have to undergo conversion and name change for marriage, she was never adamant on these conditions, says Dipak.
Then she began watching Zakir Naik videos, he says.
“It happened during lockdown in 2020. She got hooked to his videos. Zakir Naik would convert many Hindu men on the spot in his gatherings. She began sharing his videos with me. She had a large collection of his videos,” says Dipak.
That’s how the relationship between them soured, he says. “The court said that there cannot be a religious angle in consensual relationship. But Sana changed. She got radicalised through those videos over time,” says Dipak.
He said that he is left disappointed after the court order. “I went through so much, but none from Sana’s family has ever been arrested by the police. Do they stand nothing to lose after beating me, forcibly circumcising me and extorting so much money from me? Even when I am from a scheduled caste?”
Dipak belongs to Mahar jaati. “The same jaati as Dr BR Ambedkar,” he adds.
Cases Similar To Dipak’s
The secular Indian Constitution and laws allow interfaith couples to marry without one spouse having to convert to the religion of the other through Special Marriage Act.
In case of Hindu-Muslim relationship, the condition of conversion-nikah can be thus bypassed.
However, the zeal to convert the non-Muslim spouse to Islam is quite big in the Muslim community, and often proves to be a nightmare for interfaith couples where the non-Muslim spouse does not convert to Islam.
One manifestation of it is routinely seen in the murders of Hindu men for marrying or befriending Muslim women. Such victims include Ankit Saxena, Sanjay Kumar, Dablu Singh and Rahul Rajput, if we take cases from New Delhi over the past couple of years alone.
Another manifestation of it is also routinely seen in the cases of forcible conversion of non-Muslim women marrying Muslim men.
Yet another manifestation of it is seen in the much lesser-publicised cases of forcible conversion of non-Muslim men to marry Muslim women.
Besides Dipak, another Hindu man from Maharashtra filed a case of forced circumcision in December. The man, Bablu Milind Chauhan, is also from a scheduled caste. He told the police that he was forcibly circumcised by a cleric and his gang for being in a relationship with a Muslim woman. Swarajya covered his case in detail here.
Two months earlier, a man named Jagveer Kori from Uttar Pradesh, also belonging to a scheduled caste, filed a police case against his wife and her family of forcing him to convert to Islam. Swarajya covered the case here.
In November 2021, a Hindu man filed a police case against his Muslim wife of hiding her Muslim identity when marrying him and later forcing him to convert to Islam and get circumcised. Read Swarajya’s report here.
In June last year, a Sikh man from Punjab moved the Chandigarh district court seeking directions to restrain his Muslim wife and her relatives from forcibly converting him to Islam.
The plea said that though his wife had promised him before their marriage that she and her family would never force him to convert to her religion, he was pressured soon after the marriage to give up his Sikh faith. The family was forcing him to get his son circumcised as per Islamic custom.
In 2020, Swarajya covered a case where an orphaned man named Sushil, born in a Hindu Jat family of Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh, was converted to Islam by his Muslim employer when he was a minor.
At 30, when ‘Salim’ felt he was no more dependent on that employer, he gave an affidavit to a local court saying he was converting to Hindu faith again and renaming himself as Sushil.
This prompted not only attacks on him by his neighbours, but his father-in-law also forcibly separated him from his wife and children. His wife’s family told him that the only choice before him was to read the ‘Kalma’ again and attend a Tablighi Jamaat for a consecutive 40 days. Sushil gave a complaint to the local police station against the harassment.
(Mayur Bhosale contributed to the reporting.)
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
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