The Hadiya case and the issue of ‘Love Jihad’
- December 6, 2017
- Posted by: admin
- Category: General Knowledge
The Hadiya (previously Akhila Ashokan) case has thrown up some very interesting questions, including a debate about something whose very existence stems from conjecture – Love Jihad. While some are viewing the marriage and conversion of Akhila to Islam as a well-thought out plan in which she was entrapped by her husband, Shafin Jahan, others are in consternation over how the marriage and choices of an adult can be questioned in a free, democratic country.
The Hadiya case pertains to Akhila’s conversion to Islam, taking the name ‘Hadiya’ and her subsequent marriage to Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man. Akhila converted to Islam during her medical studies in Coimbatore before she met Shafin.
Akhila (now, Hadiya) is the only child of Sri. Ashokan, the petitioner in the case, and Smt. Ponnamma. They both belong to the Hindu (Ezhava) community and hail from Vaikom in Kottayam District. She was brought up in accordance with the beliefs and rituals of Hindu religion. At present, she is aged 24 years and has completed her degree course in Homeopathic Medicine, BHMS (Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery). She had joined the Shivaraj Homeopathy Medical College, Salem for her BHMS course. Though she had initially resided in the college hostel, later on, she took a house on rent outside the college and started residing there with four other friends. Two of her friends were Hindus, while the other two were Muslims. It is during this time that she is said to have become aware of some practices of Islam, started taking interest in it and gradually, decided to convert to Islam. Her conversion was revealed in public when she came to college wearing a headscarf one day and one of her friends informed her parents about it. This was not appreciated by her family and her father raised the issue with the court, filing a Writ Petition in the Kerala High Court alleging that, she was misled, misguided and forced to become a Muslim. Meanwhile, Hadiya started living with Sainaba, a social worker for the Satyasarani institution (a branch of the controversial Popular Front of India).
While hearing on this issue was pending, it came to light that she had married a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan on December 19, 2016, according to Muslim rites marriage was performed by the Khazi of Puthoor Juma Masjid. Certificates to evidence the marriage were also made available. While Hadiya’s father alleged that Hadiya’s husband had links with extremist Muslim organisations, Hadiya maintained through the hearings that her conversion to Islam as well as marriage to Jahan was of her own volition. Furthermore, questions about the validity of the marriage, whether Hadiya was unduly influenced by Sainaba in this regard etc. were also raised in the court.
On May 24, 2017, Justices Surendra Mohan Kuriakose and Abraham Mathew of the Kerala High Court, hearing Hadiya’s father’s plea for custody, exercised parens patriae jurisdiction and called the marriage a ‘sham’ and annulled it. The judgment observed, “her [Hadiya’s] marriage being the most important decision in her life, can only be taken only with the active involvement of her parents” and ordered Hadiya to be sent to her parental custody despite her wishing against it.
Therafter, Hadiya’s husband, Shafin Jahan approached the Supreme Court. A three-judge Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud is currently hearing the matter.
This term ‘love jihad’ has been heard multiple times in the context of this case. While ‘Jihad’ is understood to mean struggle or battle for the religious cause of Islam, the term ‘love jihad’ is being used to describe cases where one causes the other to convert to Islam on the basis of false hope of love and marriage. The term is usually used for cases of Muslim men allegedly luring non-Muslim women to convert to Islam. While there is no established evidence of such an organized practice, many right-wing social and political organizations use the term.
In 2009, there were claims of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and Mangalore. In 2009, Justice KT Sankaran (retd.), observed that there were indications of forceful religious conversions in Kerala and that the government should consider a law to prohibit such instances. The court held, “Under the pretext of love, there cannot be any compulsive, deceptive conversion.”
The Role of Investigation
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is currently investigating the Hadiya case, as per the directions of the Supreme Court for an NIA probe under the supervision of a retired apex court judge into issues raised by Shafin Jahan. A bench headed by erstwhile Chief Justice J S Khehar said the investigation into the matter will be supervised by the retired apex court judge R V Raveendran. It directed the probe agency to furnish the report to it after completing the investigation.
The Kerala Police had given the NIA details about 94 suspected cases of forced conversions, of which the NIA identified 10 that allegedly involved PFI activists.
In its report to the Supreme Court, the NIA has drawn parallels between seven alleged cases of forced conversion by Sathyasarini, a branch of the controversial Popular Front of India (PFI), calling them “very similar” to the case of Hadiya Jahan. The report hints that Hadiya too could have been a target of the Sathyasarini, and claims that PFI facilitated conversions of four women and a man in Malappuram in the last two years.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat has questioned this chain of events in the Hadiya case as well as the NIA’s involvement in the case, saying, “An agency whose proclaimed mandate is to investigate offences related to terrorism has now expanded its mandate by order of the Supreme Court to unearth so-called conspiracies of Muslim men luring Hindu women into marriage and forcibly converting them with the aim of joining the Islamic State.”
To be continued…
At the time of writing this piece, the investigation into the Hadiya case is still on. The Supreme Court recently passed an order allowing Hadiya to return to Salem to continue her studies and be moved out of from virtual house arrest. Some reports are casting aspersions on the marriage, including the possible IS angle involved. Whatever it may be, in a country with rights for its citizens, a woman’s right to marry someone of her choice or profess a particular faith cannot be scrutinized with ideology-tinted glasses. Furthermore, she was told in court (when she said that she wanted her husband to be her guardian), “a wife is not chattel, and that as an individual she has her own status in society, and that her husband could not be her guardian,” but soon after, the college dean was appointed her guardian. The big picture in this case is, in fact, about the rights of an adult and the precarious situation she finds herself in.