The 22-year-old stated in an affidavit that she has converted to Hinduism and changed her name from Shahnawaz to Sunita in protest against the “lack of freedom” accorded to women in the Muslim community.
A Muslim woman who converted to Hinduism to protest against the “oppression of women in Islam” has virtually gone into hiding after her decision struck a discordant note among residents of her locality in Haldwani.
The case will be handed over to the police, so it does not turn into a law-and-order issue.
In an affidavit addressed to the Haldwani city magistrate, the 22-year-old stated that she has converted to Hinduism and changed her name from Shahnawaz to Sunita in protest against the lack of freedom accorded to women in the Muslim community.
The district administration is investigating an allegation by Sunita’s parents, who reside in the Muslim-dominated locality of Banbhoolpura, that she was coerced into changing her religion.
Sunita had alerted the Nainital district magistrate to her conversion on January 7 through an affidavit sent by registered post. The woman claimed in the document that she had to face religious orthodoxy and oppression at every stage of life since her birth in 1995. Sunita signed off the affidavit by stating that she has decided to embrace Hinduism in the knowledge that it will allow her more liberty as a woman.
People familiar with the matter said she has been lying low ever since.
Neema Aggarwal, a member of the right-wing Rashtra Sewika Samiti, said India is a democratic country where people have the freedom to embrace religions of their choice. “Sunita had every right to take up Hinduism if she felt that her lifestyle was being stifled by Islamic religious practices. We firmly stand for individual rights.”
Samajwadi Party general secretary Shoaib Ahmed said that while the personal choice of an individual was paramount, the administration must also affirm that the conversion was not performed under “pressure, coercion or duress”.
The case has been handed over to the Haldwani police, so it doesn’t turn into a law-and-order problem. “The police will also investigate if the woman was converted under pressure,” said city magistrate Haldwani Pankaj Upadhyay. “Conversions are valid only if they are done without inducement or coercion.”
Haldwani Kotwali inspector KR Pandey said he was still waiting for the case to be handed over, so the probe could begin.