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Will justice prevail for Hadiya?

The 25-year-old Muslim convert, Hadiya was again repeating what she has maintained all along that she was not forcibly converted nor was she forced to marry. Hadiya’s case has attracted national attention, ever since the Kerala High Court had cancelled her marriage to Shafin. The court had raised doubts based on Ashokan’s allegations that his daughter (earlier called Akhila) had been lured to convert to Islam and subsequently agree for marriage, and there were plans to take her to Syria. Ever since the HC verdict, Hadiya has been restricted to her parents’ home forcibly. She has not been allowed to go outside or meet anyone without her father’s permission.

“I was not forcibly converted nor was I forced to marry. I want to go with my husband and I should get justice.” This is what Hadiya bawled aloud when media cameras were chasing her on airport, he was disturbed by the wrongful detention, she was pleading to meet her love. Her pain was visible; she told the world before her departure to Delhi from Kochi International Airport, that she wants to be with her husband.

She reached in the heavily guarded and barricaded gate of Kerala House in New Delhi. Hadiya, the 25-year-old Muslim convert from Kerala, is being housed for a day, before she goes before the Supreme Court on Monday to give her testimony.

The case of the 25-year-old convert has generated severe outrage across the country. Born Hindu, Hadiya alias Akhila converted to Islam in January 2016, however she has been practicing the religion for three years before that. While her father has been fighting in court that she was forcefully converted and that there are attempts to radicalise her and take her to Syria, Hadiya has maintained that she converted of her own free will. Her wedding to a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, created further complications in the case. While Hadiya said she married him willingly – and that the wedding was arranged by her Muslim guardian Sainaba – her father has depicted the wedding as sinister, claiming Shafin has links to the radical group PFI.

The Kerala High Court earlier this year annulled Hadiya and Shafin’s wedding, and gave Ashokan the custody of his daughter. When Shafin approached the Supreme Court, the apex court sided with the Kerala HC, and further ordered a NIA probe in the case. Shafin went to the Supreme Court again against the NIA probe in the case. At this point, a different bench with CJI Dipak Misra, questioned the earlier order of the court setting up an NIA probe. The court then ordered that Hadiya herself should give testimony on November 27. Meanwhile, the NIA took Hadiya’s statement and that of her family and her neighbours earlier this month.

As the complex saga of the young woman, cutting across religions and personal relationships, stands scrutinised at the Supreme Court of India, Hadiya, has been at home with her parents for nearly two years. She hasn’t been allowed to step out even once or meet outsiders. She is been forced to meet radical Hindu groups and its members to reconvert her to Hinduism calling it Ghar

Wapsi, but the girl is very much stubborn and she wants to return to her husband, these two years of house arrest has not stopped her loving him or ever detached her feeling for religion that she has chosen for herself. Attempts are being made to reconvert Hadiya to Hinduism ahead of her being produced in SC; she was counselled by a religious teacher for over three hours. Shafin Jahan met Hadiya through an ad she placed on an Islamist matrimonial website affiliated to the Popluar Front of India, a Kerala outfit accused of terror links by the NIA. His lawyers have pointed out that the Kerala High Court has said all inter-faith marriages need not be seen as “love jihad”.

Following this, Akhila’s father Ashokan filed a habeas corpus petition at the Kerala High Court. Akhila appeared before the court on January 19, and told the court about the circumstances under which she left her home and parents.  Akhila – who had now converted to Islam and taken the name Hadiya – told the court that she was “impressed” by her friends’ “timely prayers and good character” and was taken in by Islam after reading Islamic books and watching videos on the internet.

Their father Aboobacker took her to a religious institution named KIM, where she was refused admission. Akhila was then taken to the Tharbiyathul Islam Sabha, an Islamic study centre, in Kozhikode. She was admitted as an ‘external candidate’ after being asked to file an affidavit that she was accepting Islam on her own accord. According to Akhila, soon after, Aboobacker refused to keep her at his residence and approached a third institution named Sathya Sarani, an educational institution and conversion centre in Manjeri, Malappuram. Sathya Sarani sent Sainaba, a social worker and member of the Popular Front of India, to meet Akhila. From January 7, Akhila started staying with Sainaba.

Six months after the Kerala High Court dismissed Ashokan’s habeas corpus petition, the 57-year-old filed another petition. This time, he alleged that efforts were being made to transport Akhila out of the country and to get her hurriedly married off to a Muslim man. The second petition was filed on August 17, 2016. The court passed an interim order stating that Akhila should be kept under surveillance to ensure that she was not taken out of the country. After this interim order was passed, the police found that Akhila had shifted from Sainaba’s house to an undisclosed location. Meanwhile, Akhila and Sainaba approached the court and asked for their case to be taken up soon. When the case was heard, Akhila told the court that Sainaba was her guardian and that she did not want to go back to her parents. The court sent her to a hostel in Ernakulam after her father expressed concerns over her safety. When the court interacted with Akhila in person in the month of September, she told the court that she was being lodged in the hostel for no fault of hers and that she should be allowed to reside in a place of her choice. She told the court that she does not possess a passport. In November, the court expressed concern over Akhila continuing to live with Sainaba and sought their source of income. Akhila said that as a doctor trainee, she was earning a monthly income of Rs 2,000 to sustain herself. However, the court noted that she had not completed her House Surgeoncy and that she was not eligible to practice. In the next hearing on December 19, the court asked her to complete her course and shift to the college hostel. On December 21, Akhila appeared before the court accompanied by “a stranger.”

Her counsel told the court that Akhila had married a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, on December 19 according to Muslim laws. The court was not convinced and questioned why the court had been kept in the dark regarding the marriage. The court observed that the marriage took place on December 19, on the same day the court had heard the case. The court was unconvinced about many elements in the story. It said that the case was not about “a girl falling in love with a boy of a different religion and wanting to get married to him.” Let’s see what happens on the upcoming court verdict, Akhila aka Hadiya goes back to her husband or remain once again under house arrest and sulks throughout. I hope justice should be delivered to this young girl and may she go ahead with her family that she has chosen to live for life.

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Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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