It takes a lot of courage to convert to another religion in India, especially in a state ruled by the hardcore Hindu nationalist party BJP. Take the case of a girl's decision to embrace Islam and her subsequent marriage to a Muslim youth of her choice. The event has snowballed into a major controversy in Uttar Pradesh State.
Sweta Dikshit, alias Samia Ahmed was locked up in a room, beaten, and threatened by her parents on January 4. Her crime? She had exercised her fundamental right to choose a religion as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
Some time later she eloped and married Faizan Ahmed, her childhood love. The news spread like wildfire in Lucknow, her hometown and capital of her state. Now her family and police are on the lookout for the couple. The police have launched a massive search operation.
While on the run, the couple approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and filed a petition for help. Samia stated in the petition: "My brother Rajnikant Dikshit has filed an FIR (first information report) at a police station in Lucknow. The police have been harassing Faizan's entire family. His old parents are being threatened and even his distant relatives are not spared. My family has a lot of political clout. I don't know what they would do to Faizan if they find him. They will kill me also."
After marriage, the couple lodged a complaint with the Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow, and dashed off several letters, requesting protection. But the plea fell on deaf ears. Instead of providing security to the couple who are mature adults and constitutionally free to choose any religion, the police are after their lives and liberty.
Usually, when the police trace a newly married couple like Faizan and Samia, they separate them. The police mount pressure upon the neo-Muslim woman so that she may issue an allegation against her husband. If she is strong enough to resist, she saves her husband from being imprisoned. If the bride is under 18, the husband cannot escape punishment.
Samia and Faizan are waiting for the NHRC decision. "We would approach the Supreme Court if nothing comes out of it. The situation is quite desperate. They can be caught and killed any time," says the couple's attorney. In the meantime, the couple is hiding somewhere in Delhi.