On Monday all eyes were on a modest single storey house named Devi Krupa at Thirumani Venkita Puram (TV Puram) grama panchayat, a predominantly Hindu hamlet near Vaikom where the 24-year-old Hindu woman, Akhila Ashokan, who had converted to Islam and assumed the name Hadiya, was staying. The police security cordon, which was already in place has been strengthened.
The only child of K.M. Ashokan, a retired BSF man, and Ponnamma, Akhila had joined a programme in homoeopathic medicine at Salem in Tamil Nadu in 2010. The months in Salem were to change her life for ever. For the first time Akhila came into contact with Islam through two of her friends.
Bonding became intense
Later five of the Keralite students moved out of the hostel into a rented facility and bonding between Akhila and her two Muslim friends became more intense. By 2015, she seriously considered conversion. Her parents learnt of her intentions only in November that year when she refused to participate in religious ceremonies in connection with her grandfather’s death.
On January 1, 2016, she left for the residence of one of her friends at Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district. A few days later she appeared at her college wearing a hijab. Her Hindu friends immediately informed her father, who rushed to her friends’ residence. But by the time he reached there, she had vanished.
The father filed a missing case with local police which arrested the father of Akhila’s Muslim friend. Meanwhile Akhila was in contact with the institution Sathya Sarani which put A.S. Zainaba, president of the National Women’s Front, in charge of her. During this period she changed her name to Hadiya. Ms Zainaba accompanied her when she appeared before the Kerala High Court. Hadiya told the court she was staying with Ms Zainaba of her free will. The court then let her go with the latter.
Mr. Asokan filed a second petition in the High Court in August 2016 alleging that his daughter was being taken out of India. Though the girl denied there was any such move, the court directed her to be put in a women’s hostel at Kochi.
However on the next hearing on December 19, the Court allowed her to go back to the College and directed her father to return all her certificates for her to complete her studies. When the girl appeared two days later for the next hearing, she was with a husband.
Her marriage to Shefin Jehan was held on December 19. The judges were not amused and were unconvinced of the various points put forward by her counsel with regard to the marriage. The girl was returned to the women’s hostel with a directive to Jehan not to interact with her. In the next hearing on May 24, the Kerala High Court took the unprecedented step of anuling the marriage and sending the girl with her parents to TV Puram. Against this Jehan approached the Supreme Court.
While the media and public was not allowed to hear the girl’s version since May this year, a sting operation by Rahul Easwer, activist, brought to light that the girl was still practicing her new faith and feared extreme action from her parents. With Monday’s directive the Supreme Court has now asked the girl be produced before them to hear what she has to say.