Thrashed back home for falling in love, they ran away to Bangalore to tie the knot
“Appa, I’m married now,” she said in a quivering voice.
“Cancel it,” boomed her father’s voice at the other end of the line. “I can’t. It’s a registered marriage. And I won’t because I love him.”
A long beep announced the end of the phone call; her grip on husband Imran Hussain’s wrist tightened.
“They will kill us,” said Veena Virupakshappa Hebbali with a pleading look at activists of Nyayakkaagi Naavu.
Minutes earlier, she and Imran were married in the presence of freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, progressive thinker G.K. Govinda Rao, CPI (M) leader G.N. Nagaraj and Agni Sridhar on Friday.
Veena is an M.Sc. student in Hubli and Imran a cable operator in Gadag.
Assaulted and harassed by Veena’s family and the Hubli police, the couple ran away from home and reached Bangalore a few days ago along with Imran’s cousin Zeba Tarannum. “We went straight to the Press Club [of Bangalore] where we found some activists [of Nyayakkagi Naavu]. They assured us of protection,” said Zeba.
The activists arranged for a wedding, feast and all, in the presence of the media on Friday afternoon. “Our hope is that the media coverage will deter those opposed to the marriage from causing the couple any harm,” explained Agni Sridhar.
But Veena, Imran and Zeba are not so confident about their safety as they proceed to tell us their love story that started with an SMS that reached the wrong inbox in the summer of 2011.
“I wanted to send an SMS to my friend but it accidentally reached Imran’s inbox. [My friend’s] number ended with 450 but I typed 150 by mistake,” said Veena. When she realised the mistake, she apologised to Imran and thought the matter would end there. But he was curious and called her. “She had such a sweet voice. I fell in love with her voice,” he said. They exchanged messages and calls for the next month and then she asked to meet him.
“I was so scared to meet her. I told her that I am not very good-looking or well built. Kaala hoon na (I am dark skinned),” he said.
“The first time I met him I was struck by his shy nature. He seemed nice. Looks are not important for me,” she laughed. Six months later, he proposed; she said agreed.
And that’s when their troubles began.
“In April this year, my brother and his friends waylaid the bus we were travelling in. They beat Imran with sticks and dragged him to the police station,” she said.
“They took her home where her brother, her uncle and his son assaulted her. They broke her teeth and she had blood all over,” he said.
Veena’s uncle, said the couple, is an activist of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and played a key role in influencing the police. “The Police Sub-Inspector of the Vidya Nagar police station (in Hubli) severely tortured me. They even assaulted my family members and seized my motorbike. That’s when my family turned against our relationship,” said Imran.
With nobody to support them, the couple decided to commit suicide. “When I learnt this, I rushed with my father (Imran’s uncle) and rescued them. Then, we brought them to Bangalore,” said Zeba.
Annoyed by her intervention, the police allegedly started harassing Zeba’s family and friend Syed Sanaullah, a shopkeeper in Sagar who helped the couple escape. “For the last four days, he hasn’t opened his shop out of fear,” she said.
Now, the couple doesn’t know what to do next. “I want to go back and complete my studies. I am a good student,” said Veena. “I want to go back home and start working. I have no money,” said Imran.
But they both fear great harm will be done to them if they return.