India NIA to investigate annulled Hindu/Muslim marriage

The Supreme Court has ordered the India’s National Investigation Agency to probe the marriage between Akhila Ashokan and Shafin Jahan that was annulled by the Kerala high court in May before they make the final verdict. This move has shocked many activists because initially, the court had ruled against honor killings and other customs that do not allow women to exercise their right of choice, hence supporting the Indian woman's rights.

This marriage, which is now seen as a “love jihad” started when 24-year-old Indian woman, Akhila, who prefers the name Hadiya, fell in love with a Muslim man Shafin in 2016 and got married in December under the Muslim laws. Hadiya was studying medicine in Coimbatore in Tamil Nau, and she had already converted to Islam. There were many objections from their parents about the difference in their religious background, but they held on to their love affair. The marriage forced her father to go to Kerala high court so that he could have his daughter returned to his custody.

The Kerala court annulled the marriage in May and forcibly sent Hadiya back to her parents’ home in Kottayam. It was said that Hadiya was ‘weak and vulnerable,’ she was capable of being exploited in many ways and the marriage which was an important decision in her life had to be done with her parent’s active involvement. Shafin’s lawyer tried to plead with the court to allow Hadiya to ascertain her facts but the court refused. Since then, she has no contact with anyone outside the home, has no internet or phone access, and the police always guards the home. A police officer is quoted saying that this has made Hadiya depressed. In a recent video clip taken by a social activist, she asks her mother, "Is this how I should live? Is this my life?”

Jahan went to the Supreme Court to petition the validity of the ruling made by the Kerala court to annul their marriage, and he said that the order was an “insult to the independence of women in India as it completely takes away their right to think for themselves.” On August 16, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled at NIA should investigate whether Hadiya freely converted to Muslim or it was part of a “love jihad,” a term used to allege Hindu women are being forced into marriage by Muslim men. The Supreme Court is waiting for the NIA to submit its report before setting a date for the next case hearing.

Meanwhile, Hadiya’s parents have now accepted their daughter can practice any religion she wants, although they don’t want her to leave them.

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