They ran away to Bangalore, they ran again to Kochi, they have been running for 11 months now, they don’t want to run anymore. From the day a Hindu engineer and a Muslim dental student from a town near Kerala’s northern city of Kozhikode decided to move in together, their life has become a nightmare haunted by familiar ghosts: religious fundamentalists, supari gangs, a court case and now Internet trolls.
In between, 24-year-old Gautham and 21-year-old Anshida managed to get married at a registrar’s office in Kozhikode, guarded by workers of the CPI(M), which the engineer’s family is close to, and police. But for Anshida’s parents, who belong to a family of politicians affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), that has hardly mattered.
Just three days ago, Gautham’s house in Perambra was attacked in the night by an unidentified gang which left most of the window panes in pieces. Fed up of being on the run for months, Gautham and Anshida had started staying there, with his parents, just a month ago.
“We are virtually under house arrest, the repeated threats have really disturbed Anshida,” said Gautham, whose parents, both school teachers, have been the “only solace”.
It was supposed to be a feel-good school romance — Anshida was Gautham’s junior — with a happy ending, but it has turned out to be anything but that. “Her parents were against the marriage despite knowing that we were in love for several years,” said Gautham.
Some people from Anshida’s community did offer a solution, one that was mirrored by local RSS workers if Gautham wanted their support. But the couple’s ‘no’ was firm to any suggestion of conversion.
“We have been hounded since January this year when we decided to live together. Hoping that the resistance from her family and community would die down, we moved to Bangalore to live in hiding,’’ said Gautham.
Gautham worked as mechanical engineer in Bangalore. But within a month of that shift, they got a chilling tip-off.
“We got information that a 20-member supari gang was roaming in Bangalore, searching for us,” Gautham said. Since Anshida’s family had filed a habeas corpus in Kerala High Court, we could not even register a complaint with the local police in Bangalore as such a step would have led to our arrest.’’
By then, an unidentified gang had attacked the house of a relative of Gautham in Wayanad, the popular hill station on the way from Kozhikode to Bangalore.
In March, the couple sneaked in to Kochi.
“Till last month, we were living there, under the protection of CPI(M) workers because my family members are supporters of the Left,” said Gautham. “They ensured we had food and kept us away from the extremist elements.”
The next step was marriage – in Kozhikode, where it all began.
“We had fixed the marriage, as per the Special Marriages Act, on September 17.