India: Nikaah in Shiv Sena 'first family'

The Telegraph
Times are changing, and faster than Bal Thackeray knows it. The Shiv Sena patriarch watched his party bite the dust yesterday in its Konkan stronghold, routed by a former Sainik.
But the threat to Thackeray's ideology seems to be coming from closer home. On Sunday, his nephew's daughter Neha Gupte, 25, married Mohammad Nabi, 27. The wedding was kept a secret from his famous mama by Vilas Gupte.
"I haven't had the courage to tell him yet, but I'm sure Bal mama will bless the couple," said Gupte, an anxious but proud father, at the reception.

By all available reports, the bride converted to Islam and had a nikaah three months ago at Bandra (West), a posh Mumbai suburb.

Thackeray lives close by, in Bandra (East), recently declared Mumbai's dirtiest area by the municipal corporation.

"They had the nikaah three months ago in Bandra, which was attended by Neha's friends," confirmed Mohammed Qayoom, the groom's brother.

The bride and her father are denying the conversion. Asked if she changed her religion for the nikaah as is mandatory, Neha smiled and said: "I don't need to convert, I have a very adjusting husband."

Haji Afzal Hussain Khan, the bridegroom's father, said: "They did have a nikaah. Frankly, it depends on the girl's family when they want to tell him (Thackeray)."

Neha and Mohammed Nabi, both physiotherapists, met a year and a half ago at a private clinic in Kurla. They fell in love and decided to tie the knot. "But the family took some time to come around," admitted the couple.

Gupte does not think there could be a permanent falling out between his family and the Thackerays over Neha's marriage. "I'm sure when I do tell him, Bal mama will accept it like the rest of us have."

Neha and Nabi had a registered marriage on Sunday followed by a reception at Wadala, central Mumbai. The bride looked radiant in her red-and-gold zari sari beside her handsome groom in a beige suit.

Gupte's mother and the Sena boss are first cousins. "One of the reasons I kept the news of the wedding from Bal mama was that we did not want to trouble them during the election campaign."

The Sena lost both bypolls held on Saturday, with its Malwan candidate losing his deposit to ex-Sainik Narayan Rane.

The marriage is significant because of Thackeray's past. A saffron supporter, he would denounce Muslims as "Pakade" (Pakistan-backers). In 1999, the Supreme Court barred him from voting in or contesting elections for inciting Hindu-Muslim riots.

Given this, it is but natural that Gupte has not told his uncle. "But I will, at the earliest," he said.

By SAMYABRATA RAY GOSWAMI and originally published in The Telegraph on Thursday, November 24, 2005.

WLUML adds: The Shiv Sena is an extreme right Indian political party founded some 40 years ago by Bal Thackeray with a Hindu fundamentalist agenda. Its followers have attacked cinemas in Bombay and attempted to prevent cricket matches between India and Pakistan. Part of the national coalition in the previous government, it lost heavily in recent national and local elections.

A non-Muslim woman does not have to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man via a nikah. However, while a Muslim man's marriage to a Jewish or Christian woman (Ahle-Kitab, People of the Book) is fully valid in most interpretations of Muslim laws, marriage with a Hindu woman is generally regarded as 'irregular', giving the wife more limited financial rights.