Their relationship had virtually shaken entire western Uttar Pradesh last year. Kaleem and Shalu Tyagi who gained national spotlight in August last year when their love affair was turned into a case of “Love Jihad” by Hindutva groups became husband and wife on Friday night.
The two lovers of Meerut, 22-year-old Shalu and Kaleem, her boyfriend of over three years from Uldhan village, got married in a ‘nikah’ ceremony in Meerut.
“This is what I wanted. I am happy to be with the person I love,” Shalu told this correspondent, adding she did not want to revisit the “painful” past.
Painful journey Asked about the arduous journey of her love story, spanning an year and half, which involved a court case of gang rape, going to jail, she said, “Yes, the journey of our courtship till marriage was painful. But it was worth the pain both of us took. We were confident that we will be united and by the grace of god and the court indeed we are.”
The ‘nikah’ ceremony was attended by Kaleem’s parents. Shalu ’s parents stayed away.
“My parents were opposed to our relationship. But I am sure that I would be able to convince them one day. I would just say that had we been allowed to do what made us happy, it would have saved us from lots of pain and torture, but I have no complains,” said Shalu, who used to teach English in a madrasa in her village.
Asked about the ‘love jihad’ charge, she said, “I would suggest people to mind their own business. It is a free country and they are also free to fall in love with whosoever they wanted.” Surrounded by his relatives and friends who were greeting him after the ‘nikah’, Kaleem told The Hindu that there were “enormous” challenges before him and his wife to rebuild their lives from scratch.
‘No love jihad’ He said, “Love jihad doesn’t exist. It was created by people to polarise and for political gains.”
“Our lives were destroyed and we had to go through hell. Local Hindi newspapers and news channels turned me into a dreaded terrorist who headed a love jihadi group in western U.P. The girl I love became my rape victim. We as adults had full freedom to decide for ourselves the kind of life we wanted but now that we are together, I would like to forget the bitterness and move on to new things in life,” he said.
When Shalu’s parents got to know about her relationship with Kaleem last year, her father Narendar Tyagi allegedly forced her to file a case of gang rape and forced conversion.
Hours after the case was filed and carried prominently by the vernacular Hindi press, it sent western Uttar Pradesh on the boil, as it came just on the heels of communal riots in Saharanpur.
The Sangh Parivar and affiliated groups took up the case as a textbook example of “love jihad” — the headline-grabbing term used by Hindutva activists to allege it as an Islamist conspiracy to lure and convert Hindu women.
Right-wing Hindu groups launched an elaborate campaign in the State against “love jihad” in which they claimed Muslim men lured Hindu girls, tricked them into marriage and forced them to accept Islam.
Charge against father But two months later, in October last year, Shalu ran away from her house and claimed that her father had pressured her to file the case against her Muslim boyfriend because he had taken money from a local BJP leader, a fact which was reported by The Hindu .
She had also claimed that the case against her lover was done on behalf of the party leader to politicise and polarise people on communal lines. Kaleem was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court in April this year, while Shalu was staying in government’s custody since last October.
Her marriage became possible, thanks to the intervention of the High Court
Asked about his daughter’s wedding, Mr. Tyagi said he had already “disowned” her.
“I have nothing to say. I had disowned her when she had filed a case of threat to her life against me and my wife, her very own parents,” he said.