In an incident that shows a blatant misuse of Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law, a Muslim youth in Bijnor has been arrested under the law and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and sent to judicial custody, after he was found walking with a minor Dalit girl by a group of vigilantes.
The FIR which was reportedly filed by the girl’s father had alleged that the boy “induced the girl to elope with him” and had the “intention to marry and convert her”.
However, in an interview with Indian Express, the girl has said that her friend has been wrongly charged and that she had accompanied him of her free will while they were returning from a birthday party.
“I have told this to the magistrate, and I will say this again. Those men had a problem with me walking with my friend. They made videos of me and are now calling it love jihad. I did nothing wrong. I went of my own free will,” Indian Express quoted her as saying.
The girl’s father too has said that he lodged the complaint after being coerced by police.
“I trust my daughter completely. What wrong did she do? Why must she be made part of politics? Is it unlawful for a boy and a girl to walk together now?” he said.
According to the IE report, the girl and the boy, a former classmate, were confronted by a group of men while they were walking home from a birthday party at around 10.30 pm on December 14. The girl said that the men chased them and beat them with sticks and finally called the police when they found that her and the boy’s religions were different.
The girl’s father has alleged the hands of the local pradhan behind the incident, stating that his real intention was to polarize voters in the area.
The pradhan, however, has refuted the allegations, stating that he helped the girl’s father file the complaint.
The youth, who used to work as a welder’s apprentice in Dehradun, is in a jail in Bijnor. While his family claims he is 17, police say he is 18 years old.
His mother, a widow, said she had called her son to visit her after she fell ill with typhoid and he reached on December 9.
“On December 14, my son left in the evening, saying he was attending a birthday party and won’t be home for dinner. Now they are accusing him of converting a girl to Islam. This is completely false,” his mother said.
She asserts that her son, a Class 3 dropout is a minor, but doesn’t have documents to prove it.
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Arun Kumar, the station house officer of Dhampur Police station, however, says that the family will have to produce documents to show that the accused is a minor.
“We have invoked appropriate sections in this case after questioning the girl and on the basis of her father’s complaint,” he added.