New Delhi: A Hindu woman's marriage at the end of last year to a Muslim man in Kerala will be examined by the country's top counter-terror agency, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday. The National Investigation Agency or NIA has been allowed by judges to explore whether groups including the banned SIMI (Students Islamist Movement of India) are preying on vulnerable Hindu women to recruit them as terrorists.
- Country's top counter-terror agency, NIA, wins petition in top court
- It will examine Muslim man's marriage to Hindu woman last year
- Her father alleges husband wanted to recruit her for ISIS
The top court said a former judge will supervise the NIA's investigation. In a puzzling comparison, judges appeared to compare love jihad to the online Blue Whale challenge that encourages players to perform life-threatening feats, stating "it is now easy to persuade someone to perform a particular task."
The NIA, being an independent agency outside the state of Kerala, can conduct the investigation without any bias, judges said.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court in July by Shafin Jahan after the Kerala High Court ruled that his marriage to Akhila Ashokan, who took the name Hadiya after converting to Islam, was invalid and a case of "love jihad" - a term coined by Hindu right-wing groups to allege an Islamist strategy to convert Hindu women via first romance and then marriage. The Kerala court asked the state police to investigate other such cases to determine if there was an attempt to radicalize Hindu women and recruit them for terror groups including ISIS.
That's what Hadiya's father, Ashokan KM, argued in the Kerala court, while alleging that Mr Jahan has links to ISIS operatives. Since last year, more than 20 people have left Kerala to fight with ISIS in either Afghanistan or Syria.
The NIA told judges on Wednesday that young Hindu women who have differences with their parents are being systematically targeted for religious conversion and marriage. "Prima facie it has been found that entities are common in these cases... There is a pattern. The girls first get converted and then they refuse to stay with their family members and subsequently their marriage is done," said a government lawyer representing the counter-terror agency.
Hadiya, who is 24 and a homeopath, was ordered in May to return to live with her parents by the Kerala High Court though she testified that she had converted to Islam before meeting her husband whom she met through an ad she placed on an Islamist matrimonial site.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who is representing Mr Khan said that the Supreme Court should talk to the woman. Not yet, responded judges.
"If we speak to her at this stage and she says that she was forcibly converted and married off, the case will be over. It will be unfair to you. Therefore we would speak to her at the last stage before passing any orders," they said.