Madness over an inter-religious marriage in Bhopal

College students Umar and Priyanka ran away from their homes on April 2 and appeared in Mumbai a few days later after their marriage as per Vedic rituals with Umar's conversion to Hinduism with a changed name Umesh.

But Hindu organisations are still fuming. First the RSS, BJP and VHP threatened the administration of dire consequences and laid siege to the office of Superintendent of Police. They mounted pressure on the government, which forced the police to illegally detain Umar's brother Shakeel at a police station in disregard to the law.

Senior officials refused to take phone calls of television channels on Monday when Umar (Umesh) and Priyanka appeared on television and the girl said that she had not been converted and it was the other way round. She also said that there was risk to their love if they return to Bhopal.

Interestingly, the organisations that initially claimed that Muslim boys were abducting Hindu girls and marrying them, have raised their pitch even after the boy's conversion was made known. The VCD of the couple's marriage notwithstanding, they want immediate arrest of the couple though they are adult and have submitted an affidavit in the court in Mumbai.

With BJP government in the state, the police officials were searching for words as they did not have any thing to say about the legality of a youth arrested and kept in police station for three days without being arrested for any charge. Umar's father Shafiq Pahalwan and the entire family claims that they are being victimised.

Meanwhile, the BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS leaders have threatened to intensify the stir. The girl's father said that the VCD and the conversion was just an eyewash. Priyanka has told media persons from Mumbai on phone that she fears that the moment they will return, the police will arrest them and made her change statement under pressure before handing her over to her parents.

Observers feel that though the theory of turning Madhya Pradesh into a mini Gujarat could be far-fetched, the aim of these organisations could be to increase the polarisation further as the election is not too far. Already, the riots across the state have led to a surcharged atmosphere.

However, fingers have also been pointed out at the manner such an issue has been turned to raise tempers. Though there have been incidents of rapes in the capital and crimes of much higher magnitude in the past with girls, nothing prompted veteran leaders like RSS' Uttam Chand Israni to come on the street and sit on a demonstration.

Priyanka Wadhwani's father is a trader. It may be pointed out that there have many incidents involving inter-community marriages involving various religions but none prompted such emotions. The elopment of a Muslim girl by a middle-aged medical practitioner is a case in the point. But the communal frenzy witnessed in this incident of elopment has crossed all limits.

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