Hadiya’s accusations more painful than top court’s order, says her father
For two years, he bitterly battled his daughter in court, with the whole country watching. On March 8, the Supreme Court upheld his daughter’s right, and that of every Indian, to choose her partner and struck down a high court order that annulled Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jahan.
The soldier in KM Ashokan has taken the decision in his stride but the father is struggling.
“We have no complaints but we feel we have lost someone dear. Our loss is personal and we are resigned to our fate,” says Ashokan.
Sitting in their modest single-storey house, Devi Kripa (Goddess’ blessing), in Kerala’s TV Puram village in the famous backwaters of Kottayam, Ashokan browses the day’s newspaper. His wife, Ponamma, sits in a corner, lost in her thoughts.
Two Kerala Police men keep a vigil outside – the couple face threat from some fundamentalist outfits. After the verdict, they asked for the security to be withdrawn but police insisted on it.
It has been more than a month that the Supreme Court allowed their only child, Hadiya, to go with her husband Shafin Jahan.
Akhila, not Hadiya
The parents are struggling to piece together their life. They say they harbour no ill-will and they fought for a right cause.
For them, their daughter is still Akhila Ashokan, not Hadiya --- they don’t like being referred to as Hadiya’s parents.
“On Vishu, Akhila called to greet us and said she wanted to meet. I told her it would be better if she won’t. When she insisted, I told my daughter she was welcome, but not Shafin Jahan. He is not welcome here,” says Ashokan.
Vishu is the Malayalam New Year, which was celebrated on April 15.
Ashokan believes his daughter was tutored to speak against him in the court and she will realise her “mistake”.
“Look, our daughter is the apple of our eyes. I don’t want her to be a human bomb. How can a father sacrifice his daughter knowing everything?”
His daughter was studying homeopathy in a Tamil Nadu college when she converted to Islam in January 2016 and took the name Hadiya.
In the December of the same year, she married Jahan, who hails from south Kerala’s Kollam district.
Ashokan saw a conspiracy in his daughter’s choice of religion as well as partner. He approached the high court, saying the wedding was stage-managed and his daughter was bound for Syria to join the dreaded Islamic State.
The high court annulled the marriage and gave Hadiya’s custody to her parents but the SC struck down that order in March.
“We don’t have a social life anymore. We rarely go out. I go out only to get my pension. Still I don’t have any regrets,” he says.
But there is some hurt.
“More than the verdict my daughter’s charges against me really pained me,” says Ashokan.
Hadiya told the court and media she suffered intense mental and physical torture in her parents’ custody.
“She told media she was often sedated and physically assaulted. I feel she was tutored. I’m sure one day she will realise her mistake,” he says.
But there is no such leeway for her husband. Ashokan always uses his son-in-law’s complete name -- Shafin Jahan-- and is not convinced that he is not radicalised.
There is disappointment as well, of a parent whose child has chosen a different path. “I wanted my daughter to be a good doctor but she had turned out to be a preacher,” he says in a reference to their daughter asking them to embrace Islam.
Recently parents of some of the youth who went missing from north Kerala in 2016 and are believed to have joined IS called him, requesting him to form a group of people whose children “were converted and dispatched to conflict-prone areas”.
“I told them I am not interested. The verdict is yet to sink in but life has to go on,” he shrugs. “More than me, it is she who has been devastated,” he says, pointing to Ponamma who hasn’t moved from her lonely corner.
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