A BJP leader in Uttarakhand has put off his daughter’s wedding to a Muslim man following protests by right-wing groups and backlash online after the invitation went viral on social media.
“I fixed my daughter’s marriage with her Muslim boy and informed everyone. They all agreed to the marriage as this is the 21st century and our children are free to marry whoever they want,” Yashpal Benam, chairman of the Pauri Municipal Corporation and a former MLA, told the media on Saturday. His daughter was scheduled to get married on May 28.
“Slowly, such an environment was created that the situation is now not favourable for the wedding. The events planned for May 26-28 are put off keeping that in mind,” he said.
“Being a father, I accepted my daughter’s love. We sat with the groom’s family and decided to get them married. But under the current circumstances, because I am also a public representative and nagar palika (municipal council) chairman, my responsibility is also towards my people. This decision has been taken so that there is a happy and harmonious environment,” he told reporters.
After the invitation card for the wedding went viral, several men under the banner of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal (Kotdwar) carried out a protest in Pauri Garhwal on Friday, shouting slogans and burning effigies. Benam said he also received personal messages against the wedding.
He said the wedding had been fixed around two-three months ago, and that people initially welcomed the decision. “People said I should not publish a card, but I was not hiding anything from anyone. The card, however, went viral and several organisations sent me messages and the matter was posted on social media,” said Benam.
He said he did not want the wedding to take place under police protection. He thanked the groom’s family “as they fully supported us at this time”. He also thanked the police and district administration “for keeping an eye on the matter”.
Benam said several senior office bearers of the Sangh had called him. “There are people of all kinds in this world. Some talked to me politely and others were harsh in their comments. But their anger is justified according to them, just like my love for my daughter is justified according to me… (The groom’s family) are good people, and neglecting them just because they are Muslim is not a good thing. Several people warned me against this marriage, saying this will put my political career in jeopardy. But I said that for me, my daughter’s happiness is important, and my political career is separate,” he said.
Benam has previously been with the Congress, but left the party over a decade ago. He has also been an Independent MLA from the Pauri Assembly constituency in 2007, defeating the BJP’s Tirath Singh Rawat.
He did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.
Benam’s daughter studied at Lucknow University, where she met the groom.
Uttarakhand BJP media in-charge Manveer Chauhan, when contacted, said, “This is their personal matter and we will not interfere. However, BJP’s ideology is that if someone is involved in forced conversion or lures our daughters to convert them to make them terrorists, we are against that.”
Congress state president Karan Mahara said it was the BJP’s responsibility to take cognizance of the matter and act against those threatening Benam. “Though BJP senior leaders are saying that this is someone’s personal matter… (they) should say what action they have taken against those who threatened Benam… They are trying to show otherwise, but the truth is that the BJP itself is giving the threats using organisations that support them,” said Mahara.