Kerala ‘love jihad’: SC orders NIA probe into woman’s conversion, marriage
Chief Justice JS Khehar referred to the Blue Whale Challenge during a hearing into the case based on a petition filed by Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man whose marriage with a Hindu woman was annulled by the Kerala high court describing it as a case of “love jihad”.
The Supreme Court directed on Wednesday the National Investigation Agency to investigate the alleged forced conversion of a Hindu woman to Islam for marriage in Kerala.
The order came after the country’s counter-terrorism organisation said it was not an isolated case but part of a growing pattern of converting women from Hinduism to Islam.
The NIA made its remarks during a hearing on a petition filed by Kerala-based Shafin Jahan, a Muslim man whose marriage last December with a Hindu woman was annulled by the Kerala high court.
The high court described the wedding as a case of “love jihad”, a term right-wing groups use to allege an Islamist strategy of converting Hindu women through seduction, marriage, money or threat.
The 24-year-old homeopathic doctor, Akhila Ashokan aka Hadia Shefin, was allegedly recruited by the Islamic State terrorist group and her husband was only a stooge.
Retired military man Ashokan KM, her father, alleged there was a “well-oiled systematic mechanism” for conversion and Islamic radicalisation. The woman now lives with her parents.
A top court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said retired judge RV Raveendran will monitor the NIA probe.
When Jahan’s lawyer Kapil Sibal requested the top court to interview the girl, the chief justice alluded to the controversial internet game, Blue Whale Challenge, to make his point that “such things can drive people to do anything”.
“We want inputs from all sides before we take a final decision,” he said.
The court assured Sibal that it would speak to the girl before passing a final order.
The Blue Whale online game provokes players to do self-destructive tasks for 50 days before taking the final step of death by suicide. It is responsible for scores of teenage deaths around the world, including India.
While annulling their marriage this May a division bench of the high court made serious observations that a high-level probe was needed to find out whether there was an organised syndicate behind such conversions and their suspected role in recruiting youth for the IS.
The 27-year-old Jahan wants the high court order to be set aside, saying it was an insult to the independence of women in the country.
The Supreme Court ordered Kerala police on August 11 to hand the case papers to the NIA.
Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, appearing for the NIA, told the court that the case was not an isolated case and the bench agreed with him, saying the high court order also mentioned it.
“We have arrived at some observations based on the court’s order,” Singh said.
Singh referred to another case and said the organisation that took Akhila’s custody was involved in the previous one too. “In both, the organisation was involved in getting the women married. The organisation perhaps has some links with SIMI (the banned Students Islamic Movement of India),” Singh said.
“The entities also appear to be common. The pattern appears that girls leave homes due to differences of opinion with family and somebody volunteers to give them shelter and this requires investigation,” he informed the bench.
Akhila is said to have switched religion through the Therbiyatul Islam Sabha in Calicut. She was allegedly influenced by Sainaba, president of the women’s wing of Popular Front of India, which helped legalise her conversation.
The NIA report to the top court said the same set of suspects influenced Athira Nambiar, a girl from Palakkad, to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. Athira was allegedly “taken away” from her family and kept in Malappuram district.
The agency said Kerala police found 510 people were converted through the Therbiyatul Islam Sabha.
The NIA has written to the state police chief seeking information about similar cases of forced conversion.