India Love Project is a social media page run by journalists Samar Halarnkar, Priya Ramani, and Niloufer Venkatramanwhich. It tells stories on "love and marriage outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender."
Speaking about the bond between Khalid and herself, Lahiri said, "For the last three years we've been in a long distance relationship while being in the same city. We meet once a week—across a glass partition in Delhi's Tihar Jail and talk on an intercom."
Khalid was arrested by the Delhi Police in September 2020 after being charged for being a "co-conspirator" in the Delhi riots case. He was also booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged "provocative speeches" made by him.
Despite being in prison for almost three years, Khalid and Lahiri have ensured that they meet every week and share everything apart from sad things.
"We laugh, joke, and don't discuss sad things. It's only when I walk out alone that I feel sad. He calls me too, and we have court dates, pun intended. In court we talk in sign language. Yesterday I told him his haircut de él looked stupid. Your Messi's haircut is like that too, he replied. Know your place, I said. He doesn't understand football so no conversation is possible on that front. He watches the IPL and actually asked me which team I support. I'm not a cricket fan. Is IPL really cricket?"Banojyotsna Lahiri
Growing Through Struggles
Lahiri also shared how the two met, how they grew closer, and the hard times they they went through – particularly during an alleged assassination attempt on Khalid in 2018.
"Umar and I met in 2008; he was doing his BA in Delhi University and I was doing my MPhil in Jawaharlal Nehru University. We both went to show solidarity with Jamia Millia Islamia students after the Batla House encounter," she said.
Reflecting on how they started seeing each other, Lahiri said, "As the years passed, we questioned the radical left position on gender and caste and drifted away from that school of thought. It was our journey to envision a just and equitable society that brought us together. We started dating in 2013."
"In 2016 a national TV debate targeted us, particularly Umar. Since then life has been about dodging state repression and media trials while doing everyday things — with this looming over our heads, always. I was standing beside him when someone tried to assassinate him in 2018. I saw the man pull out the revolver, police said you're lucky the gun jammed. When you go through these things together, you grow into each other."
Ending on a heart-warming note, she said that her parents are prouder of him than they have ever been of her.
"Our sports choices may be different but we like the same books. I've already started buying new bookcases for everything he's read in jail. My parents are more proud of him than they have ever been of me. His parents love me a lot too," she said.
"They took Umar's liberty away, but for happiness we are still fighting. We have grown closest in these years when we have been forced to be apart," Lahiri added.