MITHI/KARACHI: The abduction, forced conversion and marriage of a teenage Meghwar girl from a village in Thar has sparked outrage and concern among members of the Hindu community and civil society who have demanded that she be recovered and brought to a court of law.

They see the incident as an attempt to damage the harmonious relations among the people living in Thar region.

Ravita Meghwar, 16, was “kidnapped” by some men from the influential Syed community of Wanharo village near Nagarparkar Town early on June 6. According to her father Satram Das Meghwar, the men had drugged the family by mixing sleeping pills in their food before taking the girl away.

Mr Meghwar told journalists on Friday that his daughter was immature and too young to take such a decision on her own. He said that he had approached the police several times but they had done nothing to help him. In time, she was forced to convert and by then it was too late, he lamented.

On Thursday, the young girl, accompanied by her Muslim husband, told journalists in Kunri that she had converted to Islam and gone with Nawaz Ali Shah. She also requested protection for her husband and herself. Pir Muhammad Ayub Jan Sirhindi, caretaker of the Khanqa-i-Aliyah Mujadadia Naqshbandia, Gulzar-i-Khalil in Samaro tehsil, Umerkot district, had converted her to Islam on June 6, and issued her a conversion certificate.

He denied that it was a forced conversion. “I converted Ravita who came to me with her husband, Syed Nawaz Ali Shah, of her own will. The civil society and the media are making it out to be a case of forced conversion but I disagree. I don’t believe in age of conversion or marriage defined by law. I believe in the law of God. For me, the standard of conversion is that of Hazrat Ali who embraced Islam at the tender age of nine.” He added: “I’m doing this service in the name of God and not to make money. We converted two more girls apart from Ravita. Ravita herself told the judge, her family and the media that she had converted and married of her own will.”

The girl’s marriage certificate, a copy of which is available with Dawn, reads: “The girl is eighteen years old and can marry a person of her choice and her Islamic name is Gulnaz.” However, her primary school certificate says she was born on July 14, 2001, which puts her age at 16 years.

“This is a dangerous trend which should be condemned in the strongest words possible,” said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who also heads the Pakistan Hindu Council. He said under the Hindu Marriage Act a Hindu girl below 18 years of age could not be converted. He demanded that the girl be recovered immediately and produced in a court. He vowed to take up the issue at all forums.

Senator Engineer Gyanchand of the Pakistan Peoples Party condemned the incident and demanded that Ms Ravita be recovered as soon as possible.

SHO Mubarak Rajar of the Dano Dhandal police station said they had registered the FIR on Thursday on a complaint filed by Mr Meghwar against against Syed Nawaz Ali Shah, Syed Noor Ali Shah, Mohammad Nohrio Junejo and Sher Ali Junejo.

He said the police were conducting raids to arrest the suspects nominated in the FIR. The couple had also filed an application in the Sindh High Court seeking protection from the girl’s parents and other relatives, he added.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2017