Love Jihad: Hadiya’s testimony awaited

By Priya Lalwani

On May 24, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage of Hadiya, alias Akhila Ashokan, ordered a probe into it and sent her back to her parental home with a directive that she should not interact with outsiders. The HC judgement said that she was “weak and vulnerable girl capable of being exploited.”

Akhila, 24, was 18 when she left the village in 2011 to study in Salem, Tamil Nadu. There, she made Muslim friends and began to follow Islam and took a new name, Hadiya. She  is at the centre of Kerala’s ‘love jihad’ controversy.

In December 2016, Hadiya married Shafin Jahan, who is a member of the Social Democratic Party, the political wing of the Popular Front of India.

Hadiya and Jahan on their marriage day. Source: Scroll.in

In January 2016, her father Ashokan K.M. filed a petition in Kerala High Court alleging she was being forcibly converted. Akhila denied this in court. The petition was dismissed.

The next month, her father filed a hebeas corpus in the High Court, alleging that Muslim organisations were planning to take his daughter abroad, to enlist her in the cause of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The Kerala High Court on October 24th, annulled the marriage alongwith providing her custody to her parents. It also asked the Kerala police to provide them with protection.

Jahan appealed in the Supreme Court for a ‘Special Leave Petetion’ in which a bench was formed for the case headed by Chief Justice Deepak Mishra. The Bench had, prima facie, that the High Court had no authority to annul the inter-religious marriage. The bench on August 16, ordered the country’s anti-terror agency, the National Investigation Agency, to inquire into Hadiya’s conversion to Islam and her subsequent marriage.

The case is now being heard by the Supreme Court.

A day after the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the National Investigation Agency, activist Rahul Easwar posted a video on social media. The video showed Hadiya saying that her father beat her and that she feared him for life.

He also emphasized the usage of the word ‘forcible’ conversions.

The Kerala government rejected the NIA probe in an affidavit, saying the police were competent to handle the issue and that there was no evidence of coercion or forced conversion.

Cases of previous ‘illegal’ conversions in Kerala.

In its reports on October 30th, NIA informed the court that it has not been able to question the Hadiya as it has been informed by the father that she is not in the ‘right frame of mind.’ The reports stated the presence of a pattern of indoctrination in 89 such cases in Kerala and how several persons had played a common role in convincing these girls to change their faith. However, NIA has not yet been able to establish a terror conspiracy in the conversions, the mandate of the federal terror agency.

“We are yet to question Akhila as her father told us that she was not ready to face the investigators yet. We will be filing a status report before the Supreme Court,” said an NIA official.

NIA’s findings also said that Akhila’s case was similar to that of Athira Nambiar, another Hindu woman who converted to Islam at a government authorised Islamic centre in Kozhikode. Athira’s parents had moved a habeas corpus petition in the Kerala High Court in 2016 against the conversion and the court had asked the NIA to probe the matter. The woman subsequently returned to her parents.

 

The SC on Monday said that the courts cant stop people from getting married to each other, even if one is accused in a crime.

The case has to proceed in a hearing that is scheduled for November 27th at 3 pm, in which Hadiya is required to be present. “Consent of the girl is important. She is a major,” said CJI Deepak Misra.

Insisting on the proceedings be open, the SC turned down Hadiya’s father plea of the proceedings to be on camera.

“We saw through the small opening of the gate that someone was forcefully dragging Akhila from the window and immediately the windows were shut. Policemen who are guarding Hadiya at her house said that she is being tortured,” said the the women right activists of the Feminists Reading Group who went to meet Hadiya but were denied access.

Later they resorted to protest.

Protest by the Feminists Reading Group