Inter-religious marriages can still get self-appointed keepers of morality all worked up. And if the ‘offender’ is a public personality, an MLA, that’s all the more reason for the protectors of purity and virtue to get agitated. After 31-year-old Congress MLA from Assam Rumi Nath married Jacky Zakir, 28, a statistical assistant in the social welfare department, the couple were attacked by a mob at a hotel in Karimganj. Reason: he was her second husband, and she hadn’t yet divorced her first. Currently living in the MLA hostel in Guwahati, the couple spoke to Debarshi Dasgupta. Excerpts:
Have you been able to identify some of those who attacked you and your husband?
Rumi: Actually, 16 of them. Jacky and I have prepared a list of these people from the videos of the attack and given their names to the DGP, Assam Police. We have asked for them to be presented for identification so that they can be arrested. Other than rape attempts, I was beaten up for half an hour and can identify each one of them. One of them is Sanjit Paul, a traffic policeman from Karimganj division. He attacked me too and he was wearing civilian clothes that night. As for some Hindu right-wing groups being involved in the attack, it is too early to say anything.
Zakir: The other person we have identified is Vishwa Ghosh, a former district president of the Youth Congress. I have been able to identify him because I am from the same area as him.
What do you think is the reason behind these people attacking you? At another level, how do you react to the local district Congress committee recommending your expulsion?
Rumi: It is an obvious political conspiracy. I got married on April 13 and have been freely moving around in my constituency. Even that day I was there to oversee flood relief work; people didn’t raise any questions about my personal life. Those behind this attack are people who are jealous of a rising young woman politician and want to bring me down. Marrying twice does not disqualify one from membership of the Congress party. I must say that CM Tarun Gogoi and Assam Pradesh Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita have condemned the incident and called for strict action.
Zakir: We still do not know why they attacked us. The attackers simply barged into our hotel room and started beating us up without saying anything. We still do not know if we were attacked for marrying each other. We had called the police promptly but they took about 20 minutes to come from a station that’s just a kilometre away. As for the three bodyguards assigned to Rumi, they simply fled.
What happens to your daughter now?
Rumi: I am going to fight for her custody. There is no way the law can keep her away from me.
Do you think it was a mistake not to have divorced your first husband before marrying Jacky?
Rumi: I also now feel that I should have got a divorce. But I am not to be blamed entirely, as I had asked my first husband for a divorce several times; but he was not willing to give me one. You know how difficult it is for a woman in India to get a divorce. He locked me in our house, did not let me contact anyone and even began to attack me physically. That is when I decided to walk out.
What made you decide that you had to get married to Jacky?
Rumi: Having gone through all this, I needed someone to support me. I have known Jacky since January this year. What I really like about him is that he doesn’t care whether or not I am married or have a child. Neither does he love me because I am an MLA. He looks at me just the way I am—Rumi Nath.