The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) “examination” of interfaith marriages in Kerala has not unearthed any evidence of coercion that can result in prosecution in these cases, officials familiar with the matter said, states a Hindustan Times report. One of them added that while there may have been efforts to facilitate the conversion of either the man or the woman involved, there was no evidence of a larger criminal design.
The agency had picked 11 cases of interfaith marriages in Kerala for examination as part of its probe into so-called cases of “love jihad” at the instance of the Supreme Court. These 11 cases were picked up from a list of 89 interfaith marriages that were already before law enforcement authorities (usually because of complaints by parents) and which were referred to the federal anti-terrorism agency by the Kerala police.
“The NIA is not supposed to file any further report in this regard in the Supreme Court. As far as the NIA is concerned, the matter stands closed as the agency has not found any evidence to suggest that in any of these cases either the man or the woman was coerced to convert,” said a senior agency official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The investigation happened in the context of the Hadiya case in which, Hadiya, 24, embraced Islam and married Shafin Jahan, a Muslim. Hadiya’s father alleged that she was forcibly converted by groups with links to terrorist outfits. but her marriage was annulled by the Kerala high court on the basis of a petition filed by her father; the Supreme Court set aside the high court order.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s decision to demolish the castle of ‘Love Jihad’ in Kerala, saying its probes into interfaith marriages, including Hadiya case, has not unearthed any evidence of coercion for conversion that can result in prosecution comes as a big setback to Hindutva groups.
In March this year, the Supreme Court had upheld medical student Hadiya’s marriage with Muslim youth Shafin Jahan. In December 2016, the Kerala High Court had annulled their marriage and raised questions over the motive behind it while acting on a plea of Hadiya’s (formerly Akhila Asokan) Hindu parents and sent her to her father Asokan KM’s custody.
While quashing the HC order, however, the apex court in March this year had allowed NIA to continue probe into Hadiya’s case and some other cases of interfaith marriages.
“At least one among the 11 marriages under examination was purely a matter of relationship gone sour. In most of the other cases we found that a similar set of people and organizations associated with Popular Front of India (PFI) were involved in helping either the man or the woman involved in a relationship to convert to Islam, but we didn’t find any prosecutable evidence to bring formal charges against these persons under any of the scheduled offences of the NIA, like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” added the official.
The official said the Constitution of India had provided freedom to practice and promote religion in a peaceful manner to all citizens as a fundamental right. “Conversion is not a crime in Kerala and also helping these men and women convert is also within the ambit of the Constitution of the country.”
PFI’s legal advisor KP Muhammer Shareef labelled the concept of love jihad a “sinister design cooked up by right-wing forces” to “target the Muslim community at large” and claimed the effort was aimed at portraying the Front and (its political arm), the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), as conduit pipes for love jihad.
“Umpteen investigations and enquiries conducted by various agencies have now found the allegation of love jihad is obnoxious, fictitious and without any scintilla of evidence,” said Shareef.
Still, the results of this investigation should not be construed as a “clean chit” for PFI, the NIA official said.
“There are separate criminal cases of serious charges of murder going on against the alleged cadres of PFI. Those matters are being dealt (with) separately.”
Among the 11 cases examined by the NIA, there were at least four cases of interfaith marriages where Hindu men embraced Islam or where efforts were made to convert them to Islam. In the rest of the cases examined by NIA, Hindu women married Muslim men.
“The NIA probe found that in at least three cases, efforts at conversion failed,” said a second NIA official who asked not to be named.