“I just want my wife back with me,” said 21-year-old Arun as he sat clutching a cup of coffee at The Hindu office on Tuesday evening, his first sip of a drink or food in the day. “Without my wife I have just lost interest in everything. I can’t remember the last decent meal I had.”
Visibly tired, harassed and still claiming to be very much in love with the Gujjar girl Pooja who he eloped with and married only this July despite strong opposition from her family, Arun claims that he has now seen the “worst face of caste prejudice that still exists in a country that is touted to be among the next superpowers of the world.”
“Pooja and me are from Haryana and I belong to the Scheduled Caste community, but with good education and a call centre job in hand I thought I had left the dark ages of caste-based discrimination behind,” he said, adding quickly, “that of course was a complete misconception on my part.”
“We met through mutual friends in 2011 and in 2012 Pooja, who worked as a beautician, broke the news to her family that she wanted to get married to me. As she told them that I was from the SC community, she was beaten-up and her family members and relatives threatened to immediately get her married off to someone else. Though my parents had no problem with the marriage, Pooja’s family was not willing to relent despite our several attempts to convince them. This forced us to elope in July this year and we got married at Arya Samaj Mandir here on July 24 (almost immediately after Arun turned 21).”
Trouble started when due to Pooja’s ill-health Arun brought her to his parent’s house in Gurgaon. “Her family came to my house and forcibly took her away. Police complaints did not help much either. Pooja’s relatives threatened to kill me and my parents and told me to forget my wife. We filed a case of abduction and the matter is now in court. Through friends I later tracked down my wife in September and we met at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. Pooja’s family members got to know where we were and abducted Pooja again in broad daylight. I was beaten up and thrown out of the car in which they took away my wife. I haven’t heard from Pooja ever since,” Arun rattled off.
Arun also fears for his life. “I have had to move out of my parent’s house because of the constant threat to them. I have no contact with my wife and my worst fear is that her family members and relatives will forcibly marry her off again. If that happens my life is over,” he said, holding back tears that had welled up in his eyes.
The police and courts, according to Arun, are ‘trying to’ help. “But I hope that it is not too little too late. Here is a woman who has the legal right to marry anyone she wishes. She is my wife and she is being forcibly kept away. I want to police to help me track her and bring her back home. I just want the freedom to lead a normal and safe family life with Pooja,” the youth said.