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The Rediff Special
Rizwanur's mother speaks out-II
November 05, 2007
He was a Muslim computer programmer eking out an existence in a Kolkata slum. She was the daughter of a Hindu industrialist worth over Rs 200 crore. Rizwanur Rahman, 30, and Priyanka, 23 married secretly on August 18 and went back to their respective homes. After 12 days, Priyanka escaped from her house to be with her husband. Priyanka's father Ashok Todi -- owner of Lux Hosiery Industries -- opposed the marriage, solemnised under the Special Marriages Act.
In the first part of an exclusive interview to rediff.com's Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt, Rizwanur mother Kishwar Jehan spoke of how Ashok Todi came to their humble home and desperately tried to persuade his daughter to return. She says he even offered the family a blank cheque if they let Priyanka return to her home
In the second and final part, she speaks how the Todi family aided by the police and goons pressured the newlyweds and finally 'forced' Priyanka to return home.
"Priyanka's father said that each of Rizwan's uncles would get an apartment and a car if we let Priyanka go. We are not greedy. We are happy. We told the Todis we do not need their money. For three-four hours, Ashok Todi and his brother kept talking to Priyanka.
At dinnertime, Ashok Todi refused to eat; Priyanka said she would eat only if he ate. Father and daughter ate together. We cooked vegetarian food -- dal and roti. We kept serving them tea.
Most of the time the Todis kept talking on cellphones. They would talk nonstop. No woman from our home was present in the room they were sitting. Ashok Todi kept repeating, 'Take as much money as you want, give us our daughter back.' We kept repeating: 'Take your daughter without giving us anything. If she wishes to go back with you, it's fine. We do not need money.' Priyanka kept repeating: 'I will not go back.'
Ashok Todi proposed he would book rooms in a hotel. We don't have air-conditioning; it's a small house; we use fans. It was quite humid and suffocating that day. He said all of us should check into a hotel and take the final decision the next day. Priyanka would not budge.
After midnight, Pradip Todi and Anil Saraogi left our home claiming that Priyanka's mother Bimla had suffered a heart attack. Actually, they had gone to get help from the police. They first went to Deputy Police Commissioner Jawed Shamim. He refused to help, because it was a legal marriage. Ashok Todi and his nephew Navin stayed back.
Around 1.30 pm, Jayanta Mukherjee and Pulak Dutta of Karaya police station [both have been transferred by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya after the issue rocked the city] came home. They told us all of us should go to the local police station and settle the quarrel there. Priyanka refused to go. She told the police: 'You cannot pressurise us. If you do, we can call the commissioner and file a complaint against you.' The policemen told Priyanka, 'You are a child. You don't have a brain. This is not a normal marriage.' But they left. Before leaving, they said if Priyanka and Rizwan did not report to the police station in five minutes they would be tied with a rope and dragged to the police station. 'Do it if you have the guts,' we responded. 'We also know a little bit of law.'
Then they suddenly changed their tone, and said since the marriage was under the Special Marriages Act, it was legal. Ashok Todi said he would stay in our home. We said, 'Sure.'
Rizwan went to his uncle's home nearby to spend the night, while Ashok Todi and Priyanka slept here. Navin took a nap on the sofa. Ashok Todi was adamant that her daughter should not spend a night in home of any 'outsider.' At one point he asked Rizwan: 'Do you want to become a Hindu?' Rizwan said, 'I haven't married to become a Hindu. This is a marriage conducted under the Special Marriages Act.' He said religion was not a priority in their relationship. Priyanka echoed his words.
Ashok Todi told us, 'You don't know Ashok Todi's power. If we want, sitting in Salt Lake [a Kolkata suburb], we can blow up the entire slum.' He told his daughter, 'You know how powerful I am. Even if you had hid underground, I would have found you.'
I did not talk to Ashok Todi at all. I don't wear a burqa, but I don't talk to outsiders. I was all the time praying to Allah. There were screams, quarrels, tension. I will never forget how Priyanka screamed at the police, 'I will see how you can take me to the police station.' She was so brave. Rizwan was nothing compared to her. He was too simple to handle such a situation.
That night, at one point, Anil Saraogi , said, 'You beat up your son and we will beat her up and take her home.' Rizwan's uncle refused: 'We will never hit our child. He has never done anything wrong.'
The entire slum remained awake and kept vigil. We were afraid goons might come to kidnap Priyanka. Ashok Todi and Naveen left in the morning.
Priyanka and Rizwan had written a joint letter asking for police protection but the Karaya police station did not act on it. Both put it in writing that their lives were in danger due to Ashok Todi's threats. If they had the protection, our son would not have died.
September 1, the day after Rizwan and Priyanka declared their marriage, one of her uncles kept vigil outside our home. He did not sit inside but would come in to check if Priyanka was there or not. He would continuously talk on the cellphone. Around 3.30 pm, Sub-Inspector Krishnendu Das came from Lal Bazaar [one of the Kolkata police headquarters]. He told us to report to the police headquarters. We sent Rizwan and his uncles along with Priyanka. From 4 pm to 7 pm they were questioned there. Priyanka stood by Rizwan. She asked why the police were siding with her father instead of providing protection to her and her husband. She told officers she had provided copies of birth certificates and the marriage certificate. Their marriage was legal, so the police had no business to harass them, she argued. With great difficulty Rizwan and Priyanka left the police headquarters.
When she came home, she was fine. That night, both were happy and slept well. Next day was a pleasant morning.
Priyanka is vegetarian and we are non-vegetarian. She ate Maggi noodles. She also showed us how to make dal the way she likes it. We used to cook meat when she was not around. She told us she did not mind if we ate meat. I used to wash her clothes.
She kept saying that she would adjust. She told us she had not walked in blindly.
They were a very loving couple. She lived in this home for nine days. In those days, we saw she is a strong woman. She fought for her husband with her father. On August 31 night, she kept telling her father: 'Don't provoke me to speak the truth.' We don't know what she meant. We didn't think it nice to ask her. On the contrary, Rizwan's uncles told Priyanka to not speak loudly or rudely with her father since he was a guest at our home.
Even in Lal Bazaar, Priyanka kept telling her father: 'Don't force me to speak out.'
Her mother never came to our house. Her father told Priyanka that her mother would never set foot in this house.
On September 2 Hari, Priyanka's family chauffeur, came to see her. He scolded her, saying, 'You should not have behaved like this.' Priyanka retorted back that he should not advice her. Then, Hari told Rizwan's uncle and elder brother to come out. At the corner of our lane, he too told them, 'Give back the girl. We will shower money on you. Ashok Todi will give you so much money that you will not need to work.'
We know Ashok Todi is very rich. But we are happy with our life. What we earn is enough for us. Rizwan's uncle told the driver: 'If the girl is not ready to move out of our home, we will not allow you to use force. Our entire slum is with us.'
On the second day, I told Priyanka, 'You are used to air-conditioned rooms, how will you live here?' Rizwan told me they would buy a new home and keep her in comfort and with dignity. I told Priyanka, 'My daughter, it will take time to buy a new house. Till that time you will have to bear with us.' Priyanka told me she had switched off the AC in her house in Salt Lake for a few days before she came here. She had prepared herself.
She told us about her elder sister, who also had a love affair. When Ashok Todi came to know about it, the relationship got over soon. Ashok Todi told his older daughter that her boyfriend took money from him, that he abandoned her. When we asked Priyanka if her sister contacted the boy, she said her sister did everything possible to contact her lover but he was never found. He just disappeared.
We do not know the truth, but we can't help but wonder why should Priyanka keep telling her father 'Don't force me to speak out'? She might have told Rizwan, but he would never share other people's secrets with anybody.
A local goon called Majid threatened us: Return the girl or else face the consequences.
On September 4, again we got message from the police headquarters. Rizwan and Priyanka were called. Again in Lal Bazaar, her mother, father, uncles, aunts were all there. The police officers were trying to separate Priyanka and Rizwan on that day. With great difficulty, Priyanka fought with the police officers who were trying to separate them. She argued, debated and shouted at them.
Back at home, she was normal. She had no regrets. We told her, 'Your mother must be grieving.' She said, 'It's all drama. Let us not talk about it.' Her sister is married in Surat.
On September 7, Priyanka's maternal aunt came home. She wept as if someone had died. She touched her mangalsutra and swore she was not aware of Priyanka's marriage. She told Priyanka that her father was admitted in Apollo hospital. She kept insulting Rizwan, and talking nicely to Priyanka.
She taunted Priyanka: 'Even when your father is on his deathbed you cannot come out of this home?' She snubbed Rizwan all the time. She told him she knows her for the last 23 years and Rizwan knows her only since last year; he should just keep quiet.
Her contention was that Priyanka had been trapped by Rizwan. She was lying all the time. She said she was not aware of her marriage but she came with Hari, the driver, who knew everything. She said her mobile is switched off but when she was leaving her cell rang. When she left home, somebody called her. Our neighbor overheard her saying, 'The girl is adamant.'
After an hour, Pradip Todi came again. We don't know what they talked about inside the room. He left the house crying and cursing: 'You are as good as dead for us. Even if your father dies you don't come. We are dead for you, you are dead for us.' Priyanka kept telling him, 'Chachu, don't cry.'
Then, the local Member of Legislative Assembly Javed Khan arrived. He said Priyanka's father was ill and that he had been told Priyanka has been kidnapped. Priyanka was telling us that this is all her father's drama. Javed Khan [of the Trinamool Congress party] checked the marriage papers and admitted he was wrongly briefed.
Next day, September 8, police officers from Lal Bazaar came again. That day Priyanka was hesitant to go. Rizwan's brother and uncles had gone back home. How many days can you afford to not go to work? That day, they went with just three other relatives. In Lal Bazaar, Rizwan was treated like a criminal. He was a good designer and did his graduation with honors in English. He was treated as if he was a petty thief. He was taken in a separate room. Priyanka was persuaded separately. We don't know what the police officers and relatives told her and how they influenced her.
Rizwan was threatened by Assistant Commissioner Sukanti Chakraborty, Gyanwant Singh and others. When we told police officer Ajay Kumar: 'You are acting against the Indian Constitution,' he wrung his hands and said, sitting in his chamber, 'We can bend the Indian Constitution like this.'
Rukbanur, a post-graduate in science, was caught by his collar. Rizwan was locked in a room. His brother was also told that he would be arrested. The police officers said Rizwan would have to allow Priyanka to go to see her father. They said he was very ill. Rizwan offered to take her to her father. They did not agree. They told Rizwan that they would slap 10 fake cases on him and that his life would be ruined; that he would be arrested. In that helpless situation, they made us sign a bond: 'Priyanka would be returned to Rizwan after seven days.'
Ashok Saraogi, Rizwan and Priyanka signed it. When Priyanka objected that it should be on a stamp paper, Sukanti ordered her to keep quiet. Priyanka left Rizwan at Lal Bazaar. She never returned."
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