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How ThePrint tried to normalise relationship between 23 year old man and 13 year old girl in the Kashmir Sikh conversion controversy

Shahid is 29 years old and Manmeet Kaur is 19. Thus, if his claims are true, then it appears that a 23-year-old Shahid was 'in love' with 13-year-old Manmeet. This only seems to bolster the claims of Grooming Jihad in the matter.

Days after the Grooming Jihad controversy in Kashmir over the alleged forced conversion of a Sikh girl, new developments have occurred in the matter. According to a report on ThePrint published on the 9th of July, Shahid Nazir Bhatt, the Muslim man the Sikh girl was allegedly married off to initially, has walked out of jail on the 2nd of July.

ThePrint journalist spoke to Shahid who made some rather intriguing comments over the matter. According to the report, Shahid and the Sikh woman Manmeet Kaur had been ‘in love’ for the past six years. But there is an issue here.

Headline of ThePrint report

Shahid is 29 years old and Manmeet Kaur is 19. Thus, if his claims are true, then it appears that a 23-year-old Shahid was ‘in love’ with 13-year-old Manmeet. This only seems to bolster the claims of Grooming Jihad in the matter.

The confusion regarding Manmeet’s age

According to Manmeet’s Aadhar Card, which was accessed by The Print, she was born in February 2003, which makes her 5 months over 18 years old as of today. In her affidavit filed on the 22nd of June 22, Manmeet, too, said that she was 19 years old.

In that affidavit, she had claimed that she had converted to Islam “without any pressure or fear” and went on to assert that she had been practicing Islam for a year. Thus, by her own admission, she is 18-19 years old.

According to ThePrint report, the relationship began when Manmeet was 13, possibly 12, and Shahid was 23 years old

So if the claims of six years of love are true, then the relationship between a 13 year old girl, possibly 12, and a 23 year old man does not fall under the ambit of acceptable relationship in civilised social settings.

Shahid, nonetheless, contends that she is 22 years old and insinuates that it was her parents who claim she is 19. He dares them to conduct a bone density test to determine her age but conveniently chose to ignore that it was Manmeet herself who claimed she was 19 in the affidavit that was filed.

Some Sikhs do not buy allegations of ‘forced conversion’, reports ThePrint

ThePrint talked to a Jagmohan Singh Raina, president of the All Party Sikh Coordination Committee, an influential Sikh body in the valley, over the matter who described the controversy as “drama for political gains”.

“When the case of Manmeet was flagged to me, I did not pay much attention as I was told that it was consensual and the woman converted and married the Muslim man out of choice but, then, someone informed Mr Sirsa and he posted a video on social media making these ‘love jihad’ claims,” Raina was quoted as saying.

“I was surprised that so many people were gathered and there was a protest. They said that conversions of Sikh women happen at gunpoint, which is totally false. Then these leaders met the woman’s family, started getting photos clicked, met senior ministers and even got the woman remarried to someone else,” he added.

According to Raina, it was an attempt to “create a rift between the two communities”.

Why the relationship is problematic

It does not need special elaboration as to why the relationship between a 13-year-old girl (possibly 12) and a 23-year-old man is problematic. A 13 year old is a minor and civilised societies do not considers minors to have agency and for good reason.

At that young an age, no one is matured enough to make significant decisions. It is why children under the age of 18 are not allowed to vote, or consume alcohol or have a driving license. Civil society accepts that children are not mature enough to be granted the same rights as adults are. Consequently, adults are charged with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the child and serve as their guardians.

That is why, such relationships are not considered legitimate in the eyes of the law. If such relationships were considered legitimate, then pedophiles will have a field day and removes the protection that children have from sexual predators because children can be manipulated, threatened and blackmailed into a ‘relationship’ with an adult. Even adults can be, yes, but the threat is much greater for children.

It is also pertinent to note that Grooming Gangs in the United Kingdom would especially target girls as young as 13 or 14 or 15, sometimes even 11, because it is easier to manipulate children of such young age.

It is not just ThePrint that has attempted to normalise such ‘relationships’, The Wire too did the same when the SIT investigation into Grooming Jihad in Kanpur found criminality in 11 of the 14 cases it investigated.

The Wire claimed that 8 of the 14 cases were ‘consensual’ when, in reality, 8 of the 11 cases where the Police found criminality involved minor victims. Thus, the penchant for liberal media to describe relationships involving minor girls as ‘consensual’ is not new.

ThePrint allows Shahid to attempt to whitewash his alleged crime

It is quite shocking that ThePrint appeared to take the side of a man who was possibly in a relationship with Manmeet when she was only 13 years old and he was 23. The report, headlined “‘Will fight to get my wife back’ — Muslim man in Kashmir Sikh ‘conversion’ row won’t back down”, says that Shahid was determined to “fight till the end to get my wife back”.

“They snatched away my love, my legally wedded wife, while I was in jail. How can they do that? My heart broke when I saw her wedding pictures soon after I came out of the prison. I felt enraged and helpless at the same time,” Shahid was quoted in the report.

He also stated, “I had a nikah. A statement before the court has been given by Manmeet that she married me out of choice. And still I am here, sitting helpless without my wife, while she is suffering there. She was tricked. Is this justice?”

Shahid also accused Manmeet’s parents of ‘tricking’ her and accused them of marrying her off at gunpoint. According to him, he could see “the pain in her eyes in the photos” from the wedding ceremony.

He said, “At one moment, I thought I would just go to Delhi. But the way these people have politicised this issue, I know if I go there, I may get killed. But I will not give up. I cannot imagine a life without her. Even if it takes me years to fight this legally. She is my wife, my love and I will get her back.”

It is indeed extremely weird that ThePrint has provided him the platform to peddle his narrative over the matter without any counter at all even though they are surely themselves aware that if Manmeet’s own version is accurate, then the relationship began when she was 13 year old, which totally undermines whatever Shahid might say.

But ThePrint treats the fact as if it is a minor inconvenience and does not matter at all. Manmeet was later married off to a Sikh man, following which the issue was deemed to have been settled. However, Shahid now says he will approach the Court over the matter.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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