21-year-old Ashitha, a native of Kannur district in Kerala, smiles weakly when asked about her parents. Ever since she managed to escape from a yoga centre in Ernakulam in 2017, where she spent seven long months, she has hardly heard from her parents.
Siva Sakthi Yoga Centre also doubled up as an anti-conversion centre where Hindu women in relationship with men of other religions were confined and tortured, until they agreed to either abandon the relationship, or get their partners embrace Hinduism.
When Ashitha, who was born a Hindu, fell in love with Shuhaib, she did not think that her family would go to the extend of sending her for "counselling" so that she agrees to abandon the relationship. She tells TNM that her parents were not deeply religious at all.
"My father is not religious, and respected all religions. That's what he taught me too. But when I wanted to marry a Muslim man, he opposed it purely on the grounds of religious difference. I asked him once, why he is doing this, considering that he had taught me to respect all religions. He did not have an answer," Ashitha says.
In January 2017, she was forcefully taken to the centre and physically and mentally tortured. After escaping from there seven months later, Ashitha and a few other women exposed the centre for what it was. The centre now remains shut and its founder and staff booked for various offences.
Ashitha registered her marriage with Shuhaib under the Special Marriages Act in December last year. While the duo are trying to lead a normal life, the memories of the horrifying torture she went through, remains still fresh in her mind.
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