The Supreme Court's interim order releasing Akhila alias Hadiya from her parents’ custody to continue her education has come as a big relief to the 24-year-old woman, but the forces that whipped up communal frenzy over her conversion and marriage to a Muslim man are not ready to let her live in peace.
While the Sangh Parivar has asserted it will continue to stand by Hadiya’s father Ashokan — who suspects a sinister plan behind the conversion and marriage of his daughter to Shefin Jehan to take her to join the Islamic State, various Muslim organisations, especially the Popular Front of India (PFI), have reiterated their support to the couple.
The apex court’s decision to recognise her marriage to Jehan — that was annulled by the Kerala High Court on 24 May — has left the field open for the mutually acrimonious forces to continue their communal sparring. The Sangh Parivar is relying on the findings of National Investigation Agency (NIA) that is probing the interfaith marriages — dubbed as ‘love jihad’ — to lend their support to Ashokan.
The full details of the report NIA submitted to the Supreme Court are not known. However, Additional Solicitor-General Maninder Singh, appearing for the NIA, termed the findings of the agency very serious. He said that the NIA had observed a pattern of Hindu women being indoctrinated and induced into conversion and marriage by radical organisations like the PFI and extremists linked to the Islamic State.
Although the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government had opposed the NIA probe into the so-called 'love jihad' cases, government counsel V Giri had sought to lend credence to the NIA report by asking the Supreme Court to look into the materials produced by the NIA and then take a decision on Hadiya’s marriage to Jehan.
"The Supreme Court’s rejection of Hadiya’s plea to allow her go with her husband is a clear indication that the apex court has taken the NIA findings seriously. The NIA has upheld what Ashokan has suspected. We share his concern of a father for his daughter. If this is wrong, we like to be on the side of the wrong," said JR Padmakumar, BJP spokesman.
He said that the Hadiya case cannot be considered merely on the basis of individual liberty as made out by human rights activists. It involves national security and integrity, Padmakumar said adding that personal liberty can only come second to the national security.
"The Hadiya case cannot be viewed in isolation. It has to be considered in conjunction with the cases of three neo-converts, who left the country along with their husbands to join the IS. We don’t know whether they are alive or dead now. Should we allow Akhila to meet their fate?" asked the BJP leader.
The PFI is not ready to equate Akhila’s case with that of Nimisha aka Fathima, Merlin aka Mariam and Sonia aka Ayisha as the former had embraced Islam much before her marriage. While the three — two of them Christians and one Hindu — are believed to have been radicalised, Hadiya was attracted to Islam while she was sharing a house with two Muslim girls who were her classmates in the college where she pursued her studies in homoeopathy.
She embraced Islam after studying the religion at Sathya Sarani, a centre for Islamic learning in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district run by the women’s wing of the PFI. Akhila, who took the name of Hadiya after the conversion, found Shefin Jehan through a matrimonial site much later.
PFI state president Nazrudeen Elamaram said that the NIA had clubbed Akhila’s case with love jihad cases to suit the political interests of the ruling party. He told the Firstpost that the Sangh Parivar was raising the love jihad bogey for communal polarisation in favour of the BJP.
The CPM has also shared this view. Party MP MB Rajesh said that the NIA was showing excessive interest in love jihad to serve the political interest of the BJP. The agency is acting like a 'caged parrot', Rajesh told Firstpost.
"The NIA is trying to dub all inter-faith marriages as love jihad. This is not at all correct. Inter-faith marriages have been going in the state for a long time now. They are not forced marriages. Any attempt to portray them as love jihad will hurt the secular fabric of the state," Rajesh said.
He pointed out that the Kerala High Court itself had affirmed this while considering the complaint of a girl who married a man from a different faith. The high court let the girl go with her husband after she made her position clear.
Rajesh said that the term 'love jihad' was coined by the Sangh Parivar to create communal division in the state, which is known for its rich secular traditions. The NIA and some other national agencies under the Narendra Modi government are parroting the Sangh Parivar slogans.
The BJP had last month organised a state-wide roadshow against the "Red and Jihadi Terror" alleging a nexus between the ruling communists and the so-called Islamist extremists.
The PFI leader said that NIA was trying to implicate his organisation in love jihad cases because they have been resisting the Hindutva agenda of the Sangh Parivar. They are trying to unite the Hindus on an anti-Muslim platform. Terming this very dangerous, Nazrudeen said that the PFI will oppose this tooth and nail.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which did not take an open stand in the Hadiya case, has also questioned the credibility of the NIA. Party MP ET Mohammed Basheer said the NIA investigation in the love jihad case was not in accordance with the Supreme Court's direction.
"The apex court had asked the NIA to probe the love jihad cases under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge. However, the agency is continuing the investigation even after former SC judge RV Raveendran expressed his inability to supervise the probe," the Muslim League MP said expressing doubt how the court could accept the findings of such an investigation.
He has pointed out that the SC decision to allow Hadiya to continue her education was itself proof that the court had not taken the claims of NIA and Ashokan about the mental stability of Hadiya. If the court had found any substance in the claims, it would not have referred her to a psychiatrist.
Hindu activist Rahul Eshwar, who was one of the few who interacted with Hadiya at the height of the controversy, said the woman had become a tool in the hands of the vested interests. He said Hadiya was normal and urged the forces who are trying to create a communal frenzy over her conversion and marriage, to leave her alone.
However, Ashraf Kadakkal, a lecturer of Islamic Studies in the University of Kerala, doubts whether the communal forces will spare Hadiya. Even if they do so, the communal divide created by the case will continue to haunt Kerala for a long time.
Updated Date: Nov 28, 2017 12:25 PM