Love Jihad: Conspiracy of Conversion

‘Love Jihad’ has nothing to do with interfaith marriages. It is, in fact, conversion of young girls to Islam by Muslim boys by feigning love. It is going on for nearly more than a decade in Kerala and from there it has spread its tentacles to other parts of the country. It is not only Hindu girls, who have been lured by Muslim boys the girls of other communities have been enticed to embrace Islam. The first petition against Love Jihad was filed in the Kerala High Court by the Catholic Bishop Council. Concerns have been raised by Hindu, Sikhs and Christian organisations. Now Love Jihad is no longer confined to India but being vigorously implemented in Pakistan, Bangladesh, United Kingdom and many other countries. What is most disturbing is that many Hindu girls are not only converted to Islam but they are sent to other countries to be trained for terrorist activities. On 25th of June 2014 ,the then Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy had stated on the floor of the Assembly that more than 2667 young women were converted to Islam in the state since 2006 actual. The actual figure is more than 35000.

There is motive behind Love Jihad and the deception by the Muslim youth is the necessary ingredient of it. Take the example of national shooter Tara Shahdeo. She was deceived by one Raqibul Hasan Khan, who posed himself a Hindu Ranjit Kumar Kohli and married with her in 2004. He got married according Hindu rites and rituals but immediately after marriage when he started pressurising her to convert to Islam then the conspiracy got unfolded.

Although religious and social organisations have been sounding alarms all over the country but when the Kerala High Court found solid proofs of hidden agenda of Love Jihad, then the country woke up to reality. The High Court annulled a marriage of a converted Hindu woman Akhila alias Hadia to a Muslim man Shafeen Jahan in May 2017 on the ground that the girl has been duped and compelled to marry the person in question.

This issue assumed huge significance when the Hon’ble Supreme Court smelled foul role of the extremist groups in Love Jihad and therefore directed for the investigation into the whole affair to unearth the truth. What is most shocking is that vested interests are making hue and cry over the decision of the Supreme Court for conducting enquiry. This shows there is something more than meets the eyes.

Let us see what led the Supreme Court to order for the probe by the NIA and, that too, under the supervision of an illustrious retired judge of the Supreme Court Justice R.V. Raveendran.

The case history

Born to Hindu parents in Vaikkom in Kottayam district, Akhila joined a college in Salem to pursue Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery. She is the only child of Ashokan and Smt Ponnamma. At present she is 24 year old. On 6 January 2016; Akhila went missing from a house in Selam, where she was staying with her friends Faseena and Jaseena. Akhila’s parents filed a police complaint alleging that her friends Faseena and Jaseena, and their father Aboobacker, had taken Akhila away. A case was registered against Aboobacker. The family filed the police complaint after they were informed that Akhila went to her college on January 6, dressed in a hijab. However, despite the police case, Akhila could not be traced.

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 now claimed to have 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. She told the court that she had been following Islam for three years, without formally announcing the change of faith. She told the court that she had left her home on January 2, 2016, because her father had seen her pray the Islamic way and had warned her against doing so. Akhila then went straight to Jaseena’s and Faseena’s house in Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district.

Their father Aboobacker took her to a religious institution named KIM, where she was refused admission. Akhila was then taken to the Therbiathul 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. This meant that Akhila has to stay at Aboobacker’s house and attend the study centre. 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, to meet Akhila. From January 7, Akhila started staying with Sainaba.

Akhila’s father alleged that Sathya Sarani was involved in several illegal and forced conversions. But on January 25, the Kerala High Court dismissed the habeas corpus petition, after finding that Akhila was not in illegal confinement. Judges CK Abdul Rehim and Shaji P Chaly said, “The original petition is hereby disposed of by recording the fact that the alleged detenue is staying in the above said institution on her own free will. It will be left open to the petitioner and her family members to make visit to her at the above institution, subject to regulations if any regarding visiting time.”

The second petition

Six months after the Kerala High Court had dismissed Ashokan’s habeas corpus petition, the 58-year-old father of Akhila filed another petition. This time, he alleged that efforts were being made to transport his daughter 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, and her lawyer argued that there was no possibility of her being taken to Syria. The court sent Akhila with Sainaba, and asked them to inform the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Perinthalmanna if Akhila was shifting to another place again.

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 Surgeon and therefore 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. Akhila agreed to the court’s condition. Akhila’s father was asked to appear before the court on December 21 with her certificates so that Akhila could resume her studies. What happened next was very intriguing and this angered the court.

The ‘stranger’ and the ‘sudden marriage’

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 also raised several doubts regarding the manner in which the wedding was held. The judges were livid with what had happened.

According to Akhila’s counsel, the wedding happened at the house of Sainaba in the presence of relatives and was solemnized by the qazi of Puthoor Juma Masjid. ‘The question that now crops up is whether the marriage that has been allegedly performed is not a device to transport her out of the country. We are not aware of the identity of the person who is said to have married her, nor his antecedents,’ the court said.

Judges K Surendra Mohan and Abraham Mathew asked the following questions: (1) In what manner had Shafin come into contact with Akhila? (2) Under what circumstances had she agreed to marry him? (3) Why was the marriage conducted at Sainaba’s house? (4) Which is the organisation that issued a certificate of the marriage? Is it registered? (5) Why were Akhila’s parents not informed about the marriage? The Government pleader submitted that Sainaba was involved in another case of forced conversion and in that case too, the convert woman had married a Muslim man to avoid any interference from the court. “As per the Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with her parents, until she is properly married off,” the court observed.

The court said that it was dissatisfied with the manner in which the marriage was conducted and sent Akhila to SNV Sadanam, a ladies’ hostel in Ernakulam, ordering that she shall have no access to mobile phones.

Shafin Jahan, the stranger turned husband

After the information about Akhila’s marriage to Shafin came to light, the court asked the Deputy SP of Perinthalmanna to submit a report on Shafin. Shafin Jahan turned out to be an active member of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI). A native of Kollam, the college graduate said he wanted to take Akhila to the Gulf, where his mother lives. In January 2017, the police told the High Court that Shafin had links with Sathya Sarani and that he was an accused in a criminal case. He was also part of a WhatsApp group called ‘Thanal’ run by the core committee of SDPI Kerala, the police said.

“Mansy Buraqui who was arrested by the National Investigating Agency at Kanakamala on 2.10.2016 on the allegation that he had connection with the extremist organization, Islamic State (IS), was also a member of SDPI Keralam and Thanal. Though it is stated that he had later been removed, the fact remains that Sri Shafin Jahan had association with him. He is also accused in a criminal case,” police told the court. The Government Pleader submitted that although Shafin was an active user of Facebook, disclosing every minor detail of his daily life, he hadn’t shared anything about his marriage to Akhila. It was only on January 10, when a Malayalam daily reported on the case, that he shared it on Facebook.

Court unconvinced

On May 24, 2017, the same bench of the Kerala High Court that had in March 2017 allowed Akhila to lead the life of her choice, called her wedding a sham. Handing out an order, the court said, Shefin Jahan is one such person who has been assigned to play the role of going through a sham of a marriage with Ms. Akhila, with the object of transporting her out of India. According to the learned counsel, it was with the said objective that the entire sequence of events had been planned and executed. The marriage was conducted in a hasty manner with the object of overreaching the jurisdiction of this Court. The court concluded that Shafin was “only a stooge who has been assigned to play the role of going through a marriage ceremony.”

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.” “In the first place, it is not normal for a young girl in her early 20s, pursuing a professional course, to abandon her studies and to set out in pursuit of learning an alien faith and religion. The normal youth is indifferent towards religion and religious studies. Though the possibility of genuine interest in the study of religion on the part of any person cannot be ruled out, such inclination is in the first place out of the ordinary. Though the alleged detenue in this case is stated to have set out to study Islam, her study has been confined to merely attending a course of two months duration conducted by Sathya Sarani. She does not appear to have conducted any study thereafter,” the court observed.

“Are there any radical organizations involved, are questions that plague an inquisitive mind. But sadly, there are no answers available in this case,” the court said. Calling the young woman, ‘weak and vulnerable’, the court said that she had no clear plans for her life or future and said that there was an organized racket behind the conversion. The court, in what has stunned legal experts and jurists, nullified the marriage, and sent Akhila back to the custody of her parents.

Two months after the Kerala HC nullified their marriage, Shafin approached the Supreme Court with a special leave petition against the HC order. Hearing the case, the apex court took note of the observations of the HC that there were radical groups influencing and converting young girls. Shafin came packing heavy legal fire powers at the Supreme Court – Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaisingh was representing him.

While Sibal argued that Hadiya was not a child, the court asked whether she knew Shafin, the man she got married to. Sibal maintained that their marriage was an arranged one which happened through a matrimonial site. After asking the Kerala government to produce all the documents related to the case, the SC on August 16 ordered an NIA probe into the incident. The next hearing of the case will be fixed as soon as the NIA submits its report.

Family fights on as the debate rages on

Thousands of kilometers away in their home in Kottayam, Ashokan hopes that the apex court gives a favourable judgement in the case. “We shall accept whatever the court says. What else can we do?” he asks. But even as the family puts on a fight, the legal proceedings in the matter have sparked off a public debate. The HC order was, however, met with stiff opposition from Muslim groups in the state, with the Muslim Ekopana Samithi even calling for a hartal in Ernakulam against the HC’s verdict.

It is reported that Akhila’s mind has been influenced and brainwashed so much that now she is trying to convert her mother too. The mother told me that Akhila was questioning them on why the family didn’t have any progress despite her mother faithfully praying to the Hindu Gods. She told her mother then she must also embrace Islam so that her mother can go to heaven and not to hell, like non-Muslims. Advocate C Rajendran, who represented Akhila’s parents at the Kerala HC, says that the marriage was purely an interference with the administration of justice. He says that the Kerala High Court had posted the case for December 21 and then Akhila appeared with a stranger and claimed that she was married to him. It proved that Sathya Sarani and Sainaba didn’t want to leave her custody and orchestrated a marriage. It means that there is an organization behind the whole thing,” he says.

The case is not just about the marriage. “I understand that Akhila was produced before the court after her family filed a habeas corpus and the court had let her choose her life. In such a context, the court is her guardian. So, she is supposed to inform the court if she is getting married, but she failed to do so. The Court saw is the conspiracy in the whole affair and dissolved the marriage. What further seems to have convinced Akhila’s parents and her supporters is that this is not the first such case.

“There are so many similar cases, like the case of Thiruvananthapuram-native Nimisha. The court had dismissed the habeas corpus filed by her mother and later she went to Afghanistan to join ISIS. In Akhila’s case, this was the second time her father approached the court. The case is not about her individual rights or freedom of choice. Like the court observed, she did not fall in love with a man from different religion and leave her family. She converted and then while the case was going on, got married to a total stranger, Rajendran says. “This is about radicalisation. She, like Nimisha, has been brainwashed with the stories of horrors of hell and lured into converting with the promise of heaven.”

Hopefully, the truth will come out in the investigation by the NIA and the conspirators will get exposed for the good of the country. Let us keep our fingers crossed.