MITHI: The Sindh High Court has ordered police to produce Ravita Meghwar — a Hindu girl who, according to her family, was abducted, forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim man — before the court on June 22.
The Mirpurkhas DIG and Tharpakr SSP have been directed by an SHC bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar to ensure the girl’s presence at the next date of hearing. The court issued the directive on an application filed by Ravita’s father, Satram Das Meghwar, through Advocate Bhagwandas, against her conversion and marriage.
Mr Meghwar told the court that his daughter, who was 16 years old, had been illegally married off to Syed Nawaz Ali Shah after having been kidnapped from her village near Nagarparkar Town on June 6.
She was named Gulnaz after the conversion. The same day she married 36-year-old Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in union council Gulzar Khalil in Samaro of Umerkot district. Mr Meghwar said his daughter was born on July 14, 2001.
His lawyer contended that the marriage under the age of 18 was a punishable offence under the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013. He said the registrar had mentioned Mr Shah’s year of birth (1980) and the national identity card number on the marriage certificate. Ravita’s age was shown as about 18 years, but there was no mention of her NIC number.
Similarly, the lawyer said, the certificate of conversion to Islam also did not mention her date of birth and NIC number, but her age was shown as 18 years.
“She was abducted from her house and forcibly married off to a man twice her age,” said Mr Meghwar, who had lodged an FIR against Ali Nawaz Shah, Madad Ali Shah, Umar Junejo and Sher Mohammad Junejo for kidnapping his daughter. The FIR was registered under Section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Dano Dandhal police station in Nangarparkar taluka a week ago.
Earlier, Mr Shah and Ravita had filed in the SHC an application seeking protection and accusing the girl’s parents of issuing death threat. The court had fixed June 30 the date of hearing on the application.
Ravita’s appeal to her parents
Ravita has appealed to her parents to let her live with her husband happily as, according to her, she had taken the decision to embrace Islam to marry the person of her choice.
Talking to journalists here on Tuesday, she requested the people of her community and members of civil society to stop raising the issue further.
“I am very satisfied and happy after marrying Nawaz Ali Shah and now I cannot [live] without my husband,” she said and made it clear that she was not kidnapped. “I willingly went with Mr Shah after falling in love with him.”
Ravita expressed the hope that courts would do justice with her and allow her to live with her husband.
Meanwhile, talking to journalists, Ms Haqu, mother of Ravita, insisted that her daughter was kidnapped by the influential Syed community, forcibly converted and then married. She demanded her early recovery.
Activists of the Pakistan Peoples Party-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) protesting against what they called ‘forced conversion’ of Ravita and workers of various religious parties taking to the streets in favour of her Muslim husband came face to face outside the press club in Umerkot on Tuesday, turning the situation critical.
Bhagchand Meghwar and other activists of the PPP-SB held a demonstration outside the press club, demanding immediate arrest of accused Nawaz Shah who, they alleged, had kidnapped Ravita, forcibly converted her to Islam and then married her.
Activists of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, Ghousia Jamat and Jeelani Jamat gathered outside the press club after marching on different streets to stop what they called the propaganda with “blasphemous contents” on social media in the wake of Ravita’s conversion to Islam.
Addressing the protesters, Noor Mohammad Udhepuri said there was a planned propaganda against Islam which would not be tolerated, adding that the act of a person should not be counted as the act or teachings of any religion.
He said 50 per cent population of district was non-Muslims and there had been religious harmony among Hindus and Muslims, but such practices and comments on social media would harm cordial atmosphere.
Maulana Yaqoob claimed that Khanqah-i-Gulzar Khalil had not converted anyone forcibly and said the people came there with their aspiration to embrace Islam. He alleged that planned conversion of schedule caste communities to Christianity was going on in missionary schools throughout Mirpurkhas division, but nobody spoke against it because they offered monetary benefits and converted Hindus.
Mufti Nizam Sikandri said the so-called activists remained silent when Jiyo and Meena Kolhi committed suicide in Islamkot as their religion did not let them marry.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2017