By Manleen Bawa
In a country where plurality is used as a gimmick to propound a secular image, the tenets of diversity are almost immediately vanquished when it comes to a single religious community. Kerala has been witness to fuelled communal tension scraping through the socio-political atmosphere in light of the so-called case of ‘love-jihad.’
Factual matrix of the case
Akhila Ashokan, a 24-year-old student of Homeopathy Medicine and Surgery converted to Islam after claiming to be “impressed” with the religion. She adopted the name Hadiya in place of Akhila, without the knowledge of her parents. Her father filed two habeas corpus petitions claiming forceful conversion and threats of transportation of his daughter out of the country. After the dismissal of both the petitions filed at the Kerala High Court by her father, she got married to Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man whom she met through a matrimonial website. Following this, her father moved the court alleging that the marriage was a way of recruitment by ISIS, citing her to be a victim of ‘love jihad.’ The court annulled their marriage and granted Hadiya’s custody to her parents as Shafin appealed the court’s decision. A video of Hadiya complaining of the torture she is experiencing at the hands of her parents was released by Rahul Easwar. The Supreme Court has now directed Hadiya to appear before the court on 27 November 2017 for a hearing.
A climate charged with friction between two religious communities took shape when this incident came to light. Hindu outfits such as the Sangh Parivar lashed out against the growing cases of alleged ‘love jihad’ in Kerala where a large number of Hindu and Christian women were forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Muslim men to radicalise them. Muslim leaders deny the existence of the phenomenon called ‘love jihad.’ Hameed Vaniyambalam, president of the Welfare Party, the political wing of the Jamat-e-Islami, maintains that “Love jihad is the creation of the Sangh Parivar. There is no forced conversion.” The secular nature of India is put under scrutiny when radical outfits use individual cases to create narratives with little or no evidence to fire communal hatred.
A case of judicial overreach
The High Court verdict which annulled Hadiya and Shahin’s marriage stated, “It is necessary to bear in mind the fact that the detenue who is a female in her twenties is at a vulnerable age. As per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married.” The blurring of distinctions between the personal and the political, has spiralled into a national issue. This form of penetrative judicial intervention has been severely criticised. An important question raised here is whether the court would take such a decision had Hadiya converted to Hinduism, changed her name to Akhila and got married to a Hindu boy.
A case for independent choice
Hadiya took an independent decision, followed through and chose to lead the life she desired for herself. The intervention of her parents and the judiciary have left her life absent of autonomy. She has become a subject of scrutiny and an object of possession being fought over. Her self-governing capabilities have been severely undermined, rendering her subjugated by familial as well as social entrapments. The Hadiya case certainly impinges upon the consciousness of this country raising doubts regarding the social, political and cultural spectre. It also presents a complex network of different schools of thought operating with distinct agendas, political support and social phenomenon, and creates an atmosphere where inciting hatred and violence in the name of religion become normalised.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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