Indias Love Commandos

Once upon a time, a couple fell in love in the village of Bulundshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India. She was from a rich family, he from a poor one. Both shared the same religion, Islam, and they wanted to spend their lives together. She knew her family wouldn’t agree to let her marry a man from such a humble economic background. So, faced with this obstacle, “We decided to marry secretly,” says Abdul Hakim, “hoping we would be able to persuade our -parents to accept our marriage.” 

 

In June 2009, an imam married Abdul, then 24, and Mahvish, 22, with full Muslim rites in the presence of 10 friends but without the knowledge of either’s family or relatives. Their wedding -pictures show a beautiful bride in a traditional -red-embroidered lehanga; the groom tall, square-jawed, clad all in white. The couple returned to their home village and continued to live at their respective parental homes. “We thought her parents would kill us,” recalls Abdul. That is no idle fear, and this is no fairy tale.

 

Every year in India, young people are murdered—strangled, stabbed, burned alive—for “honor.” Their offense: falling in love with someone from the wrong religion, caste or social or economic background. Parents kill their own children, brothers murder sisters, and sometimes spouses, fiancés or lovers are slain, too. Some communities cheer or orchestrate the violence; others just look the other way.

 

For about a year, the couple met occasionally, in secret, once or twice a month. Finally, they gathered the courage to ask permission to marry. Abdul’s parents gave their consent. But Mahvish’s parents refused and instead selected a husband for her, a man she did not know and did not want to marry, and fixed a wedding date. Rather than consent to this arrangement, the couple fled their home village. For the first time since their secret marriage, they lived as husband and wife but in hiding, moving frequently and always in fear for their lives.

 

Enraged that their daughter had defied their wishes, Mahvish’s parents brought the matter before the khap panchayat—the village council—which pronounced a death sentence against the newlyweds. A mob marched on the home of Abdul’s parents, stripped and beat the elderly couple, then hanged them from the rooftop by their ankles over a bonfire. The police rescued Abdul’s parents and they, too, abandoned their village, moving in with another son.

 

Fortunately for Abdul and Mahvish and others like them, there is an organization they can turn to for help: the Love Commandos, an Indian civil society initiative, founded in 2010 and dedicated to helping couples resist forced marriage and escape honor killings.

 

Find out what happened to Abdul and Mavish, and read the rest of this article about the Love Commandos, here in your free digital November/December issue of The Intelligent Optimist. 

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Indias Love Commandos

Once upon a time, a couple fell in love in the village of Bulundshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India. She was from a rich family, he from a poor one. Both shared the same religion, Islam, and they wanted to spend their lives together. She knew her family wouldn’t agree to let her marry a man from such a humble economic background. So, faced with this obstacle, “We decided to marry secretly,” says Abdul Hakim, “hoping we would be able to persuade our -parents to accept our marriage.” 

 

In June 2009, an imam married Abdul, then 24, and Mahvish, 22, with full Muslim rites in the presence of 10 friends but without the knowledge of either’s family or relatives. Their wedding -pictures show a beautiful bride in a traditional -red-embroidered lehanga; the groom tall, square-jawed, clad all in white. The couple returned to their home village and continued to live at their respective parental homes. “We thought her parents would kill us,” recalls Abdul. That is no idle fear, and this is no fairy tale.

 

Every year in India, young people are murdered—strangled, stabbed, burned alive—for “honor.” Their offense: falling in love with someone from the wrong religion, caste or social or economic background. Parents kill their own children, brothers murder sisters, and sometimes spouses, fiancés or lovers are slain, too. Some communities cheer or orchestrate the violence; others just look the other way.

 

For about a year, the couple met occasionally, in secret, once or twice a month. Finally, they gathered the courage to ask permission to marry. Abdul’s parents gave their consent. But Mahvish’s parents refused and instead selected a husband for her, a man she did not know and did not want to marry, and fixed a wedding date. Rather than consent to this arrangement, the couple fled their home village. For the first time since their secret marriage, they lived as husband and wife but in hiding, moving frequently and always in fear for their lives.

 

Enraged that their daughter had defied their wishes, Mahvish’s parents brought the matter before the khap panchayat—the village council—which pronounced a death sentence against the newlyweds. A mob marched on the home of Abdul’s parents, stripped and beat the elderly couple, then hanged them from the rooftop by their ankles over a bonfire. The police rescued Abdul’s parents and they, too, abandoned their village, moving in with another son.

 

Fortunately for Abdul and Mahvish and others like them, there is an organization they can turn to for help: the Love Commandos, an Indian civil society initiative, founded in 2010 and dedicated to helping couples resist forced marriage and escape honor killings.

 

Find out what happened to Abdul and Mavish, and read the rest of this article about the Love Commandos, here in your free digital November/December issue of The Intelligent Optimist. 

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