Friday 18 April 2014
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Hindu boy, Muslim girl forced to marry thrice in 6 months

The two are now ‘sick and tired’ and have approached the NHRC to allow them to lead a normal life

A boy sees a girl at a social gathering and instantly decides that he should get married to her. After several days of courting, he succeeds in wooing her and proposes to her. The girl is reluctant and hesitant as she is from a different community. Finally, the boy manages to convince her to marry him.

This real-life incident being enacted in West Bengal has some trappings of Maniratnam-directed ‘Bombay’ made in 1995. But the comparisons stop at the marriage.
But Tarun Modak, an employee of a private shipping company, and Jahanara Khatoon (names changed), have already married three times in six months and now a sword of Damocles hangs over them in the form of a fatwa.

The events have taken a bizarre turn and the couple had to marry thrice-- twice only to please the society, relatives and the families.  The two went through torrid time, which they would not have bargained for at the time of deciding to get married. They had to willy-nilly kowtow to an adverse fatwa from the community leaders. The young couple had little alternative but to please.


Tarun was aware of the sensational wedding between computer graphic
designer Rizwanur Rehaman and Priyanka Todi, daughter of a business tycoon, in Kolkata and the media attention it had attracted. He knew the fate Rizwanur met. But, Tarun threw caution to winds as he thought that he was not marrying any prominent person’s daughter.

He was shocked beyond his senses by the events that followed his marriage. Khatoon, a primary school teacher from Metiabruz near Watgunge in the southern fringe of Kolkata, first married Tarun in February 2009 under the Special Marriage Act.

For a couple of months, the newly wed had a nice time and things were hunky-dory as they lived separately without depending on others.
The troubles started when the girl's community came to know about the
developments. During Khatoon’s first visit to her parent’s place at Rabindranagar in South 24 Parganas district, she was categorically told by the community leaders that if she declined to marry Modak again as per the laws of Shariat, her husband would be ostracised in the locality and she would not be allowed to stay at her
father’s place.

“I realised the predicament of my father and naturally, I had to give in,”
revealed Khatoon.  After a lot of persuasion stretching into a few weeks, Modak agreed to re-marry her under the Shariat law. More drama unfolded thereafter.  Tarun’s parents wanted the couple to marry as per the Hindu customs and rituals. When there was little objection from Khatoon, the third marriage of the couple within the six months of their first wedding took place. Modak's parents organised it at the Kalighat temple in the city and were too happy to see their daughter-in-law condescending to wear conch shell bangles and apply vermillion on the forehead like  a Hindu woman.

However, this did not go well with the girl’s community leaders. They were furious and targeted Khatoon’s father.  He was summoned to a community meeting where he was allegedly thrashed and forced to sign on a judicial stamp paper. “Have we or my father committed any crime that we’ve to go through all this?” Khatoon asked. “Can’t we and our family members have a peaceful life? We’ve tried to oblige all their (read community leaders’) wishes. Still, why there is so much persecution of us and my father?” she added in anguish.

Khatoon along with her father has already registered a complaint with the local police. Unable to withstand their trauma any longer, the couple has now approached the National Human Rights Commission, pleading they may be allowed to lead a normal life of their own as they are actually ‘sick and tired’ of appeasing the community chiefs. When contacted, a local police officer said that security for the family members has been ensured and efforts have been on to resolve the matter amicably.
Prasanta Paul in Kolkata

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