A female Ayurveda doctor was allegedly abducted and tortured for 22 days at a Hindu reeducation center last month after marrying a Christian man in Kerala, India.
The 28-year-old woman, Swetha Haridas, filed a report with police on Monday recounting torture and abuse at the hands of Yoga and Charitable Trust in Kochi, a center run by the woman’s brother-in-law Manoj Guruji, where she said she was held against her will until she managed to escape in late August.
The yoga center has reportedly been active in coercing women to return to Hinduism after they have converted to other religions. According to Haridas’ testimony, there were some 65 other women and girls being held at the center for similar reasons while she was there.
Haridas told police she was tortured “by Hindu fundamentalists” to take her away from her marriage with a Christian, Rinto Issac. “When I objected and tried to escape from the illegal confinement, they tortured me,” she said.
“Manoj had arranged the entire conspiracy, torture and he misled me to accompany my sister for yoga learning there,” the woman said in her testimony. “Then for 22 days, I was subjected to torture and cruelty by the accused.”
Haridas names six individuals in her complaint, including her brother-in-law and several counselors at the center.
“They illegally confined me there, confiscated my mobile phone and belongings, tied my hands, mouth, legs using cloth from behind and assaulted repeatedly,” she told police.
Despite fierce opposition from her family, last year Haridas married a Christian man. Under the pretense of reconciliation, Manoj and his parents invited the victim to their sister’s home and from there took her to the Yoga and Charitable Trust. All of this allegedly happened between July 28 and 31 this past summer.
“They threatened me with the evil consequences of marrying a Christian and when I objected and tried to escape from illegal confinement they physically assaulted me and outraged my modesty by tearing my dress,” the woman testified. “There were classes regarding the evil spirits of Christianity and Islam and they used to promote enmity towards Islam and Christ.”
Haridas claims that her brother-in-law brought out photographs of her husband to demonstrate that he was being watched, and threatened to do him harm if she should ever return to him.
“Guruji threatened me that if I go with my husband they will kill him,” she said. “They induced me to marry a Hindu which my father will arrange.”
The woman told police that local authorities are aware of the practice, which had been going on a long time, but have looked the other way.
One of the counselors at the center reportedly told Haridas that “no court or police will touch them” and that they have been running this business for the last 15 years.
“There were such 65 girls illegally detained and tortured and many had complained about sexual abuses,” she said. “I was forced to do the works of housemaid including cleaning and preparing dishes for 65 inmates. I spent my time there in tears but I was not allowed to contact anyone outside.”
According to the woman’s report, on August 21, she pretended to agree to her captor’s terms and was subsequently taken to her elder sister’s house, from which she escaped to rejoin her husband.
Swetha’s mother, Ranjini, claims that her daughter is exaggerating and is motivated by “some other agenda.”
“We are against the marriage with Rinto, not because he is a Christian. He is not educated and doesn’t have a job. We took her to the yoga centre expecting that the counselling would change her approach,” Ranjini said.
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