In yet another incident of failed love jihad, which has mercifully attracted public attention nationwide, a 16-year-old Hindu schoolgirl Ankita Kumari in Jharkhand's Dumka told her father about a Muslim man Shahrukh Hussain who had been harassing her and went to sleep only to wake up a few hours later to a sharp pain in her back and a burning odour. The Class 12 student realised, to her horror, that her body was on fire. Shahrukh Hussain's bid to 'teach her a lesson' for defying Islam succeeded on 28 August when Ankita succumbed to her injuries.
The Muslim perpetrator of the crime was seen sporting a smirk in videos after the police arrested him. The Hindu girl had named him in her dying statement to a magistrate.
The story devious saga began unfolding months ago when Shahrukh Hussain began stalking Ankita Kumari even as she thwarted his advances. He got her mobile number from her friends and, on 19 August, called her over the phone, pestering her to become his friend, she said in her dying statement.
Sharukh Hussain attacked Ankita Kumari when she rejected his advances. The Muslim man then called her again around 8 PM on 22 August, threatening to kill her if she did not talk to him. Among the things he said was the nagging urge to get Ankita Kumari converted to Islam.
"I informed my father about the threat, after which he assured me that he would talk to the man's family on Tuesday. After having our dinner, we went to sleep. I was sleeping in another room. On Tuesday morning, I experienced a sensation of pain in my back and could smell something burning. I found him running away when I opened my eyes. I started screaming in pain and went to my father's room. My parents doused the fire and took me to the hospital," the victim said before dying.
Ankita Kumari's entire body except her face was burnt, as she struggled to give the dying declaration. She named an accomplice of Shahrukh Hussain, Naeem alias Chhotu Khan, whom the police arrested and are interrogating in custody.
Large gatherings have been banned in Dumka following massive protests against the failed attempt of love jihad. Opposition BJP, whose Hindutva is being questioned increasingly, has slammed Chief Minister Hemant Soren for "neglecting" women's safety. The BJP has slammed Soren, saying that "thousands" of crimes against women had taken place in the state since he became the chief minister. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said there had been other love jihad cases among the tribals.
"It is very shameful for Jharkhand the way that boy entered the girl's house, poured petrol and set her ablaze. There have been thousands of crimes against women in Jharkhand after Hemant Soren became chief minister. There are also love jihad cases among the tribal population. The people from Bangladesh are entering and marrying innocent tribal girls and usurping their land," Das said.
Faced with mounting criticism, the chief minister said the case would be fast-tracked. Soren announced that an additional director general of police would supervise the case, calling for the "strictest punishment" for the accused. "Such people should not be forgiven, they should be given the strictest of punishments. Laws should be brought in to further strengthen the existing laws for such incidents. A lot of evil acts are being seen in society. This incident is heart-wrenching, and the law is taking its course. The accused has been arrested. It is our effort to see that he is punished at the earliest," the chief minister said. He also announced Rs 10 lakh as monetary compensation for the family of the victim.
The police said that the situation was normal and under control. "The suspect Shahrukh has been arrested. We will move the case to a fast-track court for a speedy trial. People are cooperating with us. We appeal to people to maintain peace. The situation is under control and Section 144 has been imposed," Dumka Superintendent of Police Ambar Lakda said.
Jharkhand Police have removed SDPO Noor Mustafa Khan as the investigation officer from the case.
Cases of successful and failed attempts of love jihad normally do not make it to the English language mainstream media in the country, but this one has, even as they are loath to recognise that the issue is communal. The term love jihad in all English language media reports appears preceded by "so-called" or "alleged" or it is enclosed in quotes, implying that the claim is doubtful.