Who is Hadiya?

Updated - October 14, 2017 08:22 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2017 08:15 pm IST



A 24-year-old Hindu woman, Akhila, who converted to Islam and took a new name, Hadiya, is at the centre of a ‘love jihad’ controversy that has rocked Kerala. While Hadiya, now living in confinement in her parents’ home, insists she took the step on her own, her family argues she is the victim of so-called ‘love jihad,’ in which it is alleged that Muslim men attract, convert and marry Hindu women.

What is the issue?

Her father, an ex-serviceman and an atheist, was upset by the conversion and filed a complaint at the local police station and a habeas corpus petition in the Kerala High Court in 2016. After Ms. Hadiya’s subsequent marriage to Shefin Jahan last December, her father Asokan K.M., filed another petition in the court.

What did the courts rule?

On May 24, the High Court nullified the marriage, ordered a probe into it and sent her back to her parental home with a directive that she should not interact with outsiders. It observed that she was a “weak and vulnerable girl capable of being exploited.”

Meanwhile, her husband moved the Supreme Court against the nullification of their marriage. A Supreme Court Bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, is seized of the matter. The Bench has, prima facie , found that the High Court had no authority to annul the inter-religious marriage between Mr. Jehan and Ms. Hadiya. In August, the Supreme Court asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe whether there was a wider pattern in the alleged ‘love jihad’ case in the State. The Kerala government rejected the NIA probe in an affidavit, saying the police were competent to handle the issue and that there was no evidence of coercion or forced conversion.

Where is she now?

Ms. Hadiya is with her parents at TV Puram, near Vaikom, in Kerala. It is not clear why she converted to Islam or got married to Mr. Jehan, but she insisted in the High Court that it was a personal choice. Ms. Hadiya studied at the local government school till Class XII, which she passed the second attempt. In 2010, she entered a private homoeopathy medical college at Salem in Tamil Nadu. There were only six Malayali women students in the programme. All of them moved out of the college hostel to a private rented facility, where she got closer to two Muslim friends.

Why did she convert?

By September 2015, she began legal procedures for the conversion. Her parents came to know of it only in November when Ms. Hadiya refused to participate in a religious ceremony at her house. On New Year’s day in 2016, she left her house for her friend’s residence and, a few days later, returned to college wearing a head scarf. Her father was informed of the development by her classmates and he went to the residence of Ms. Hadiya’s friend. By the time he arrived, she had moved out and he went to court.

What happened in court?

Acting on her father’s complaint, the friend’s father was arrested. Ms. Hadiya was produced before the High Court by A.S. Zainaba, president of the National Women’s Front. The court allowed her to be with Ms. Zainaba as there was no evidence to prove that she converted under pressure. The court allowed Ms. Hadiya to attend classes at the religious institution, Sathya Sarani, at Manjeri in Malappuram district on her request. After attending classes there, she formally assumed the name Hadiya.

In August, Ms. Hadiya’s father filed a fresh petition in the High Court expressing fear that his daughter was going to be smuggled out of Kerala to Syria. The court ordered Ms. Hadiya be shifted from the house of her local guardian Ms. Zainaba to a hostel in Kochi. However, at the next hearing, she was again allowed to go home with her guardian. On December 19, she married Mr. Jehan, a young man from Kollam. When she arrived in court on December 21 with Mr. Jehan, it took exception to her failure to inform it about her marriage. She was sent back to the hostel with a directive to Mr. Jehan not to meet her or have any contact with her.

What lies ahead?

Ms. Hadiya’s friends have no access to her. Nor does her husband. Women’s rights activists have been crying foul over Hadiya’s confinement, saying it infringes on the right to freedom of an individual. Ms. Hadiya is caught in the middle as the issue gets politicised. The next hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled for October 30.

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