By Arun Lakshman
The term 'love jihad' is inseparable from Kerala as the state which is considered to be 'God's Own Country' because of its scenic and natural beauty, has had several cases of girls from Hindu and Christian communities marring young Muslim men and ending up in ISIS camps.
Justice K.T. Shankaran (now retired) of the Kerala High Court had in a landmark observation on December 9, 2009 said that there were indications of forceful religious conversions under the garb of 'love' in the state and the government must consider enacting a law to prohibit such deceptive acts. The court also said: "Under the pretext of love, there cannot be any deceptive, compulsive conversion."
Justice Shankaran was making this observation while dismissing the anticipatory bail petitions of two young men, Shanshah and Sirajuddin, accused of participating in activities such as 'love jihad', allegedly converting girls of other religious communities to Islam and enticing them to marry Muslim men.
The court also said that from police reports, it was clear that there were concerted efforts to convert girls of a particular religion to another with the blessings of some religious outifts. Justice Sankaran also said that it was a plan from 1996 onwards and that some Muslim outifts were behind this.
The earlier form of the now banned Islamist outfit, Popular Front of India (PFI), the National Democratic Front (NDF) was one of the main Muslim outfit that was 'masterminding' the conversion of Hindu and Christian girls to Islam under the pretext of love.
The Christian Association for Social Action (CASA) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had expressed concern on an organised conversion of Christian and Hindu girls respectively by Muslim youths under the guise of love.
In the case in which Justice Sankaran had dismissed the bail application of Shanshah and Sirajuddin, the girls, one a Hindu and another a Christian, had earlier said that they converted on their own but later admitted that they were forced into religious conversion at a home in Chelari, Kozhikode.
It may be noted that the CPI-M senior leader and former Chief Minister of Kerala, V.S. Achuthanandan had in a press conference stated that love jihad was an exercise to make Kerala a Muslim majority state.
The senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy had in the state legislative assembly said that 2,667 young women were converted to Islam between 2006 and 2014. However, he had stated there were no proofs that they were forcibly converted to Islam.
The powerful Ezhava community leader, Vellappally Natesan had also said that there were several instances of Hindu girls being converted to Islam on the pretext of love.
In May 2017, the Kerala High Court had annulled the marriage of Akhila Asokan, a Homeopathy student, with a young Muslim man, Shafin Jahan.
Akhila's father Asokan had moved habeous corpus petition in the High Court of Kerala and prayed before the court that his daughter Akhila was missing and that he suspected her to be forcibly married. Akhila appeared before the court and informed that she had converted to Islam and had assumed the name, Hadiya, and was married to Shafin Jahan.
Incidentally, Akhila was given shelter at the residence of P.A. Zainaba, president of the woman's wing of now banned Popular Front of India (PFI), the Islamist organization. Akhila told the court that she had left on her own and that her father, Asokan was not allowing her to practice Islam.
The court annulled the marriage of Hadiya and stated that she was a victim of indoctrination and psychological kidnapping and handed over her custody to her father, K.M. Asokan stating that an unmarried girl has to be under the protection of her father.
The Supreme Court's division bench comprising the then Chief justice Deepak Misra and present Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, however, restored her marriage to Shafin Jahan stating that a 24-year-old like Hadiya had the power to make her own decisions and that the court could not compel her to go with her father or husband against her will.
The apex court directed the NIA to continue with its investigation into whether the girl was forcibly converted.
It may be noted that Shafin Jahan was an active member of the now-banned Popular Front of India and had four criminal cases against him.
Kerala is considered an epicentre of love jihad as several girls from well-to-do families pursuing medicine, engineering, and management courses had allegedly fell into the love jihad trap and married IS terrorists, reaching the shores of Afghanistan, and finally landing up in IS camps.
With almost all of their husbands now dead, these women are in Afghan jails and the families of these girls have appealed to the Centre to bring them back to the country. However, the Union Home Ministry has not considered it in a positive tone. (SJ/IANS)