‘Because we are Muslims…’ In conversation with Hadiya and Shafin Jahan

Translated interview transcript of Hadiyya and Shafin Jahan done by Jimmy James for Asianet News Point Blank, telecasted on 14th March 2018. Translated by the collective of ‘Citizen for Hadiya’.

Jimmy James: Namasthe, today we have with us two people …who became the center attention all over India, due to their marriage …Hadiya and Shafin Jahan… welcome to both of you.

JJ: Hadiya, people could understand you’re changing your faith, but why this haste in getting married…that is what everybody has been asking…

Hadiya: my marriage was in no way hasty…I converted and officially it was confirmed in court in January 2016 …and the case was settled. And my marriage was in December 2016…means there was a gap of nearly a year. Moreover, I was over 24yrs of age at that point…24yrs is enough of an age I believe…and it’s me who should decide when to get married, isn’t it…

JJ: ‘Hadiya is not capable of making decisions, she is being influenced by others. And it is under such influence that Hadiya did certain things’ is what some have been critiquing…

Hadiya: I will do what I am totally convinced about, I won’t hesitate to…and I have no fear …and it is in such a conviction that, even when I had nobody for the support I went forth to change my Religion…I had nobody, nor did I set forth thinking any organization would back me…

JJ: Which year was this?

H: In 2013 January itself I had completely accepted Islam as my Faith.

JJ: Shafin, the biggest critique was that this is a sham marriage…and you were being deemed as a villain in the narrative till recent days. People were asking. ‘If marriage happened (for real) you never updated it on Facebook etc…you dint even share photographs…were the allegations… is it true?

Shafin: related to our marriage a lengthy process, as usually done in case of a marriage was undergone…this marriage proposal, started in August 2016 through our getting connected on the matrimonial website…

JJ: ‘Way to Nikkah’(name of the matrimonial site) …right?

Shafin: yes, ‘Way to Nikkah’ …after that through WhatsApp we shared photographs and decided to meet each other when I next came to Kerala and decided to take it forward if we were pleased…I came, we met, we were pleased and went forward with the marriage…with the involvement of both our mahal committees ( mosque authorities).

JJ: but it never was shared on Facebook, you were an active Facebook user, but during the period of your marriage, you never shared any details of the marriage …was an allegation…

Shafin: I had invited (about the marriage) some of my friends through Facebook itself….as I did not have everybody’s phone numbers…And the proof of this was submitted to the courts…

JJ: Usually people share wedding pictures on Facebook…such mediums are used for it…

Shafin: these are all personal inclinations…social norms having been now brought up to a state where it becomes imperative that one should share one’s wedding photographs, for that marriage to be accepted…this question itself is building up towards such a social construct…that’s how I see it…I think it should be done away with…such thoughts and such questions should not be asked to adult people who get married…especially in an Indian context…

JJ: Hadiya, in our country marriages and conversions are routine…. But why did your marriage create such a furor?

Hadiya: My hardships started because of my conversion to Islam…first habeas started……then the second habeas happened…and its after even more time had passed that my marriage happened…I was crucified this much as I chose Islam is what I understand…I don’t know much, I’m a layperson…what I understood from my experience is this….

JJ: The court first says… ‘You converted  …its okay’ and when it’s revealed that you married, the decision changes…isn’t it?

Hadiya: Is there such a court rule..? Is there such a law…that a girl should inform a court if she is getting married? If there is a case happening…is there a rule that stipulates that one should inform the court about marriage…this is my foremost question …Moreover when I was under court orders in Hostel arrest…my father’s lawyer had asked the court to issue orders to the effect that my non-married status should be kept intact…the presiding Judge had clearly stated that ‘it’s an adult girl and the court has no right to impede her rights’

Shafin: It was a different bench (from the one which later annulled the marriage)

JJ: it is from there that the confusion starts right…one bench states this… “Marriage is a person’s right” and then the case comes in front of another bench wherein the issues move to another stage…

Hadiya: I felt…it was actually in front of a particular bench that I was sent into incarceration… I was not accorded any value…to literally lock up a person…things coming up to such a situation…No other bench had ever done it…No bench had till then disregarded me thus…

JJ: How was this lockdown…in your life?

Hadiya: One cannot see the people one wish…cannot contact anybody over phone…there were even limitations in what books I could read. Even for my basic necessities, I did not know who to ask…That was the situation. I had no idea whom to ask…I would be brought to court at certain intervals…I can’t ask the court to get me this or that…I have been to the court many times…whenever there was a hearing ..I would be produced in court and was forced to remain a mute spectator…I was literally a mute spectator.I was never once asked about my marriage…what is my opinion on it, whether I had married out of my own will or not …this was not asked to me even once by the Bench.

JJ: the High Court… Right?

Hadiya: Yes. Exactly.

JJ: So each time you went to court…you were kept a spectator…with arguments between the counsels happening and you were left standing there …?

Hadiya: A lot of sittings passed, where I was treated thus…they never asked my opinion…and once I reacted…I demanded that the honorable court should listen to what I have to say regarding the whole matter…The judge turned furious…shouted at me…at one stage my lawyer even walked out of court (in protest) such was the situation…a habeas corpus turning into such a thing… a habeas is wherein I am supposed to go and say what is my situation/opinion…and here I was not being considered at all in the ruling.

…the court could have put me in Jail… if I was an offender/ a culprit. Or it could have again sent me to a hostel …but instead they sent me back with my parents, without considering the present rift with my parents. And then I was not a consideration…the case was closed…it was not ruled that it will be further considered and decided, but rather the case was completely closed…I, a women of 25 years (was not allowed any say), and was forcefully sent back to my parents, having closed the case….I was horrified at the state of affairs our country has reached…

JJ: The annulment of the marriage was a Law point…but there was no ruling to hold you captive in your house by the court…then how did things reach such a situation?

Hadiya: If I was not under house arrest, if I were free …if I could have run away, and second I would have joined back my husband….I was truly locked up, hence I could not… In my room, I had two women police officers…and 7-8 police personnel guarding the house. It was like a miniature police station set up there, in their own words. And they (police) had themselves told me that I could never go out from there if I wished…my necessities were never given any value, I was locked up, and the government colluding in such a way….it was the high court which ordered my protection and brought it to such a situation, but I could never understand how it escalated into the Government itself placing me on lockdown. What was my crime…I could have understood it if I had committed any crime…if that was the case, I should have been sent to a jail right..being a layperson that is how I perceived it…If I had committed a crime, they could have sent me to jail…that is how a high court punishes right…for small quarrels between lay people ..Petty disputes…isn’t there certain set laws…But this was like resolving a petty dispute between two kids…That is how I felt (about the judgment), wherein I was sent back to my parents.

JJ: After that, there came out a video, from Rahul Easwar shot at your home, where you were trying to raise some complaints…

Hadiya: A person is subjected to strict lockdown in a room.., denied all rights that the person wants to utilize, which is being controlled by other people…that was the situation. If I had to do anything, it was after gaining permission from somebody…even to go to the toilet, I could not go when I felt like it…I had to wait for the convenience of the police personnel who were supposed to accompany me…Unless they are ready, I could not…or they would react untowardly.it was a part of their duty…but just imagines an adult woman …a person staying in a house, is being thus curtailed…is it not a trouble? I am asking you back…asking the society …isn’t it outrageous? To be in police protection…police in their uniform…they were always suspicious…if I sit, if I turn…if I take a pen if I take a knife…(They were suspicious) whether it was to kill myself…I had no idea what they were suspecting me of…they were even police personnel who said ‘ beware she might hang herself” I don’t know what they meant by saying this…

JJ: they told this to you Hadiya?

Hadiya: Yes they did …to the police personnel (in my presence)…a senior official warned the attending officers “be careful, you will lose your job …if she hangs herself…she’s out of her senses…she might hang herself” …means…how they see me, perceive me …I never felt they considered me as a Human being.

JJ: Where you are perceived as a “basket case” by everybody at that point?

Hadiya: hmmm…yah when I was at my house (in lockdown) it was like that

..Before that, I won’t say that everybody was treating me so.

JJ: You had no contact with the outside world, no way of knowing Shafin’s thoughts, how did you reach the brave conviction that these dire circumstances he would not leave you?

Hadiya: I am a Muslim, I chose Islam …not because I thought any organization or any person would stand with me…Tomorrow, the people who spoke up for me…They might or might not support me …but according to my faith, my god… my creator would save me…that is my faith. That is my strong conviction, and hence to me, after a certain period of hardships, when I could not take any more…I had full conviction that God will deliver ease.

And regarding my marriage …It was not financial considerations, or any such aspects or motivations, that was considered (by him) in this marriage and hence I was sure that such a person was obviously strong in his faith to an extent and hence I had full trust he would not avoid me, due to hardships or any allegations raised.

JJ: Shafin, Hadiya was not an ordinary girl…she had another name, another existence before…it was following her strong religious belief that she changed. In a usual setting, any family would hesitate to marry a girl from such a background. Yet, you made that choice, why?

Shafin: Regarding me, I am a person who has my own viewpoints, my own likes, and my own dislikes…I was able to very clearly make my parents understand those likes and dislike and to convince them…I succeeded in that  …it was hence I was able to go forth with this marriage.

JJ: Hadiya, Your father Asokan’s worry arose from the fact that, it was an unknown religion to him, an unknown lifeworld…moreover, it is alleged you were initially very extremely devout and contemplating going to Syria for rearing sheep…

Hadiya: my parents are very loving, I know that…they love me a lot…I too love them a lot…but they have been 100% misguided. They are being utilized by some forces.

JJ: You did speak regarding ‘sheep rearing’ to your father …truly, what was it all about?

Hadiya: there was a period of continuous phone calls …he used to call me almost every day for over a week…he would keep repeating (that I would go) “sheep rearing” and I would repeatedly say …No, No I would not go …this kept repeating…and just like any layperson (in outrage) once I told him, “yes I will”…and I said I was thinking so earlier, but I won’t know because my friend convinced me otherwise. That was the gist of the conversation…I don’t exactly remember the exact wording now…I never said I am going (sheep rearing)… I had said my friend had said so…Something to that effect…coz before that when he had spoken to me, he was saying he would burn down my friend’s house…he would bring the RSS with him…Mom had said he would come and kill my friend’s father (who they believed to be instrumental in helping my religious quest) …a very strong animosity towards them (friends and their family)… it had hurt me so much. Because they were nowhere in the wrong …this was my decision, and I did not want them to be harmed (because of me)…so if somebody was stoking my father’s fears (that I would go to Syria), I wanted him to believe that … my friends were actually good and it was they who convinced me otherwise…this was my intention in speaking so…that is the truth (regarding the sheep rearing conversation on tape). I never thought it would be used in such a way …that it would be recorded with this intent (as proof) …I’m a layperson, I behaving normally with my parents … (as any girl would), I would lash out at small things…react according to my whims and fancies…I am such a person, I don’t know to hide my normal feelings …

JJ: Shafin, You were the villain in this narrative…perceived as a terrorist, with ties with the ISIS … with a host of cases against you … Are there cases against you in real…how many cases are there?

Shafin: a lot of allegations, every day a new allegation was being raised against me …by people, holding particular intentions. That was the reason for all the baseless allegations raised against me and the Honourable courts had to later concede. (That these were false)

JJ: how many cases?

Shafin: in my knowledge, there is not even a petty case lodged against me.

JJ: not even a petty case!?

Shafin: No (smiles)

JJ: And it is against such a person that these allegations were being made…

Shafin: There was somebody with a similar name, from my own hometown… who had a few cases registered in his name…And that was being tried to be portrayed as cases registered against me…that is what transpired.

JJ: people of your town might have turned suspicious …but it would have been cleared if the police had enquired at your hometown and the allegations against you could have been easily cleared..

Shafin: Yes there was I think almost eight inquiry reports submitted before the Honourable High Courts …by the Police and including the Crime branch. And these reports clearly state it …

JJ: That there is not even a single case…?

Shafin: Until now, to my knowledge, there are no cases registered against me.

JJ: Is it because you were employed in the Gulf, that allegations of recruiting to Syria was being made…that you would smuggle her to the gulf, that such an image was created?

Shafin: No…it is because I was a Muslim that such allegations were being raised against me, is how I understand it. Nowadays, worldwide, nationwide and in Kerala too there is an anti-Islamic, or an Islamophobic thought …is in a very well thought out, calculated manner, being injected into the society.

JJ: When we speak about Islamophobia …there was an instance were the members of the Popular front of India had chopped off the hand of a Teacher … which shows there is Islamophobia, as well as a radical strain of Islam existing ..Isn’t it?

Shafin: In the in Kerala context as well as Indian context, there are a lot of socio-political issues, that keep occurring…and to portray me as a terrorist, as an extremist it was bandied about that I am a member of a radical outfit.

JJ: You are a member of a WhatsApp group…?

Shafin: These are all baseless allegations…I do not know of any such WhatsApp group…There are a lot of investigation agencies in India…Even the Kerala investigative agencies had submitted almost 8 reports (which clears me)…I am asking the society at large, I am telling you …I am not a member of any such WhatsApp group, not an admin, nor a member of any such group…I am clearly stating with 100% that I am not a member of any such group.

JJ: Hadiya case, means the case around Hadiya, her police protection…all the furor around it… At that time, how was your life?

Shafin: For a Husband who was on the verge of losing his wife…it was very traumatizing. Even in retrospect, what I went through was very painful…

JJ: You were employed in the Gulf. Did you have to frequently travel to and fro…did it affects your job?

Shafin: Of course, because of the case I was being portrayed as an extremist, a terrorist, a lot of allegations being raised…so I had to stay here, And I had lost my wife, I have to gain her back!…And to undertake this legal fight I had to stay back here…and that resulted in a situation where I was losing my job.

JJ: You lost your Job…

Shafin: Yes

JJ: In retrospect, this was not a love marriage, rather a marriage that happened through a marriage bureau, at any juncture did you regret, that this could have been avoided (had you chosen another bride)

Shafin: After each stage … you asked a very good question… after each stage, my confidence and contentment were increasing…my Life till now, the life I was living, and my life forward is in India. India where it is the largest democracy in the world, India which has the best Constitution in the world. And at this point, I was entering in a legal battle to uphold that Constitution, and I am proud of it…And at this stage, we have been granted our guaranteed constitutional rights by the Supreme Court and it is a joyous occasion for us.

JJ: You get married, a natural course that should have run smoothly, but that is when the courts, constitutional rights etc come into the picture. Now beyond being a normal wedded couple, are there pressing political questions (because of what you both were subjected to) under purview in your marital life?

Shafin: The times are not such, wherein we should be thinking about just a life comprising Hadiya and Shefin Jahan. In my opinion, people including me and you, the whole society, in the Indian context, should be very vigilant about the times we are living in. The situation demands that.

JJ: Hadiya, the case has reached this point, there might be more legal actions coming your way. Can you understand your Father? Can you understand his actions as springing from his love (for you)? Will you be ready to let go … (of the hurt)?

Hadiya: My Father loves me a lot …I love my father a lot …But …I can’t read all that he did as arise out of his love for me alone.

JJ: What I am asking is …if things turn out well, will the situation come wherein both of you go and visit him at home, or where he would be visiting you …

Hadiya: Insha Allah (if God wills) definitely.

Shafin: Of course.

JJ to Hadiya: You will have no objection?

Hadiya and Shefin (in unison): no, of course not.

JJ: In other words, I am asking will you be able to let go of the hurt he gave.

Hadiya: Definitely I will be able to (let go)

Shafin: Of course.

JJ: You could?

Hadiya: Yes?

JJ: Why?

Hadiya: To answer that in a single sentence…I am a Muslim. Being a Muslim, I can never disown my parents.

JJ: In between all this your father had alleged that this is a second marriage (Shafin’s), and it will create troubles…did he not. Did that happen?

Hadiya: What I felt is, that he was misguided, that he (Shafin) looks aged, that Muslims are like this …(have multiple wives) with a certain bias in place. My father never had such pre-judgments…so I believe it was something fed to him by someone. And it is thus he came to such a biased conclusion.

JJ: You could have avoided this by convincing your father, that he is a young man of just 26yrs of age…right?

Hadiya: Even now he is not ready to accept it, is he..?

JJ: Finally …What are your plans further?

Hadiya: hereafter, I want to live happily, in peace.

JJ: How and where?

Hadiya: Here in Kerala. I want to continue my studies, I will be returning to college tomorrow. I need to complete my internship and afterward, I want to return to Kerala. We have decided to settle here in Kerala.

JJ: So soon we can expect a name board that reads “Dr. Hadiya”?

Shafin: Of course

Hadiya: Yes. For sure, I will be practicing (homeopathy).

Shafin: Once her internship finishes we will decide on what is the best course of action…where to start her practice etc.

JJ: Hearty Thanks to both of you for joining us at Point Blank.

Hadiya: Thank you.

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