Inside a city court room on Tuesday afternoon, they stood in two different witness stands — opposite each another. He was the accused, she was the victim. Three days ago, the last time she was with him, the two were walking past the clothes market in Amritsar — like they always had for the past 14 years — roaming around and discussing plans for their son’s school.
But on Tuesday, inside the court, they weren’t allowed to speak. Rajesh Kumar, 41, stood next to an inspector, his left hand firmly held by a head constable to ensure he did not escape.
Kumar was before a judge, arrested for the kidnapping of a 17-year-old minor girl in December 2001.
On the evening of November 14, a police team landed at a market in Amritsar and arrested Kumar to find out that the minor girl he ‘kidnapped’ had since become his wife. Now 31, she is the mother of their 10-year-old son.
“We were in the market on Saturday when a man tapped on my shoulder. When I turned back, I saw several men in plain clothes. They said they were from the Delhi Crime Branch. The past flashed before my eyes. They said my husband was being arrested for kidnapping and that if we co-operate, there would be no problem,” said Meenakshi.
Meenakshi had always feared this moment. She knew that her father, unhappy with her for eloping with Kumar in 2001- their tenant and from a lower caste — had not forgiven her. Because she was a minor then, her father Ashok Sharma had filed a kidnapping case against Kumar.
All these years, while the couple hid and lived in Amritsar, the police had on numerous occasions filed untraceable reports before the court, which had in the past declared him a proclaimed offender with a reward of Rs 50,000.
Meenakshi told HT that the first few years after their marriage, the couple lived in fear. “My heart missed a beat whenever I saw any cop walking towards us. We would avoid their gaze. We used to discuss initially about what would happen if Rajesh was arrested but after our son was born, we buried the past,” she added.
During the court hearing on Tuesday, the couple’s 10-year-old son played outside the court room, unaware of the drama inside.
“After my husband’s arrest, I told my son that we were going to Delhi to meet his father. He did not ask anything. Here in the court, he saw his grandparents for the first time. I saw my parents after 14 years. I could barely recognise my younger sister. I hope they forgive us now,” she said.
After an hour-long hearing, the judge relied on Meenakshi’s statement and granted bail to Rajesh. When advocate SS Gill whispered the bail terms in Meenakshi’s ears, the couple finally stole a nervous glance. A police officer on duty smiled. Her father shed a tear.
He did not speak and simply walked towards the door.