Lakshmi Kumari hails from Uttar Pradesh, where she lived with her parents and a younger sister. She got married to a man from her community (Hindu, scheduled caste), but the marriage did not go well for her. She says the man was an alcoholic and would beat her often.
One day, she met ‘Tillu’, who was her classmate in the village government school. They exchanged numbers and began talking. Tillu told her he liked her even in school and could take her out of the abusive marriage. A distressed Lakshmi agreed to this proposal. She eloped with him.
They went to Ludhiana district of Punjab. There, they rented a place to live together. Tillu proposed that they should get married; Lakshmi readily agreed. After a few days when she went with him to what was supposed to be a wedding ceremony, she saw a bearded man and a few other men with skull caps. The venue was a factory workshop. Lakshmi learnt that Tillu’s real name is Sohrab and he is Muslim.
Though taken aback, Lakshmi accepted the new reality. In her own words, she knew little about Muslims and assumed that they are just another jaati group.
However, one thing irked her during the nikah ceremony. The cleric offered her cow meat to eat. Lakshmi, though an occasional meat-eater (“chicken only”, she said) flatly refused the offering saying her family worshipped the cow and did not eat it. The cleric refused to preside over the ceremony. The offering of beef was supposed to be a mandatory ritual for her conversion to Islam before nikah with Sohrab.
Those present quickly arranged for another cleric, who said he would solemnise the nikah without the beef ritual. Lakshmi was renamed as Neha. They married and returned home.
As per what Lakshmi told us, Sohrab’s attitude towards her changed drastically in the days to come. He would mock her Hindu rituals and beliefs, mistreat her, did not give her money to run the house, sexually abuse her. He would also go out of Ludhiana for about 15 days every month, saying he went for work. However, he would produce no money. Lakshmi worked as a receptionist at an office to run the house. Things changed for the worse when she became pregnant and could not go to work anymore.
She learnt to her horror that Sohrab was already married and had a son. She understood that she had fallen victim to a loveless conversion trap.
But she was at an advanced stage of her pregnancy and could not separate from him. A daughter was born, and Sohrab named her ‘Inayat’. With an infant, Lakshmi could not go to work anymore. To run the house, she requested her father from UP to come and live with her. Her father had cut off ties with her after her elopement, but seeing her in distress, he shifted with Neha, and brought her younger sister along.
Her father found work in Ludhiana as a labourer on a salary of Rs 10,000. In the days to come, however, the salary turned out to be woefully short as there was house rent to pay, expenses to bear including that for a baby, and Lakshmi’s younger sister needed to be sent to school.
Sewa Nyaya Utthan’s founder Swati Goel Sharma met Lakshmi in Ludhiana. She heard Lakshmi’s pitiful tale and offered to help, but on the condition that she separated from Sohrab.
After some reassurances, Lakshmi agreed. Swati promised her Rs 5,000 every month till her daughter was old enough for her to go to office. When Sohrab left for his routine trip to UP to be with his first wife, Lakshmi and the family shifted to a different location and cut contact with Sohrab.
After some months, Sohrab sent her a video showing him giving triple talaq (unlawful) to his first wife. Sohrab texted to Lakshmi that he would be a committed husband from now on. But Lakshmi did not respond. She shared the videos and the text with Swati.
Since then, Sewa Nyaya Utthan Foundation has been helping Lakshmi financially. Her sister goes to school. Her father goes for work. Lakshmi is currently learning tailoring.
You can watch all video testimonies by Lakshmi, below: