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‘I don’t believe in love marriages’

‘I have some masala for you,’ Babubhai Patel (alias Babu Bajrangi) told me excitedly, when I called to arrange an interview with him. ‘There are three new girls with me.’ The Serial Kidnapper of Gujarat has never shied away from his mission. Every time I have met him, he has proudly bragged about the girls he has ‘rescued’. Almost as if each one is a new conquest.

A small-time Bajrang Dal leader from Naroda in Ahmedabad, Babubhai has grown in notoriety over the years. He is a prime accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, one of the most gory communal massacres in Gujarat in 2002. Never punished for this crime, he remains free to abduct at will. As president of his Navchetan Trust, he has made it his mission to ‘rescue’ Patel girls who marry outside their community. To date he claims to have ‘saved’ 706 girls.

‘I don’t believe in love marriages. We have to marry within our own community. These girls go to college, make friends with some _lafanga_ (loafer), roam with them on their bikes, fall in love and then run off and get married,’ said Babubhai, pointing to the three girls sitting meekly by his side. ‘We bring them back, and convince them that they are ruining their future. They stay with me for a while and then return to their parents.’

I remind Babubhai that when we had met two years back, he had described to me how he and his men thrashed the boys and took away the girls. ‘That was some time back. If I say that now, the media will be after me,’ he smiles. ‘I have a magic mantra that makes the girls come back. We do whatever it takes and somehow bring them. If it’s a _Musulman_ [Muslim], we definitely use force, even if the girl doesn’t want to leave. Musulmans don’t have a right to live in our country. How dare they marry our girls?’

But it isn’t the Muslim boys who have filed the court case against Babubhai for abducting their wives. It’s a group of four Hindu boys living in Maharashtra. Yet Babubhai remains unperturbed by minor complications like police complaints. ‘Those who file cases against us are crazy. Even the Mumbai High Court has dismissed their case,’ he laughs.

The High Court had appointed a police inquiry, which found that the women had been kidnapped and forced to ask for a divorce in court. Other girls who had managed to escape Babubhai’s clutches also testified about how he captured, beat and abused the girls and forced them to break their marriages. Those who were pregnant were forced to have an abortion. The police report had said that Babu Bajrangi should be arrested and further investigations should be made into all the cases where girls were kidnapped. However, the High Court totally ignored the investigation. It ruled that since the allegedly abducted wives have not substantiated the claims, the Court cannot take any action and the matter should be settled in the matrimonial court. The case is being appealed to the Supreme Court

New Internationalist issue 400 magazine cover This article is from the May 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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