Thiruvananthapuram: The December marriage of a young homeopath in Kerala to a Muslim man returned from the Gulf anchors a wide examination by the country's top counter-terror agency into whether the southern state is being used by terror groups who deploy "love jihad" to recruit young woman. Just days after the Supreme Court allowed the National Investigating Agency or NIA to uncover if this is a pattern, NDTV has learnt that four other young women in Kerala who converted to Islam are being considered case studies: two have reconverted to Hinduism are likely to be made witnesses in this case.
All of them, says Ashokan KM, have been trapped just like his daughter, Akhila Ashokan, who at the end of last year married a Muslim man she met through an Islamist matrimonial site. By then, she had become Hadiya. It was Mr Ashokan's petition that led to the Kerala High Court dissolving Akhila's marriage and ordering her to return to live with her parents in May. Her husband appealed against that verdict in the Supreme Court, which earlier this month, said the marriage would be proved by the NIA.
A 22-year-old woman in Palakkad says in her affidavit given to a Kerala court that the organisation involved in her conversion in May last year is Sathya Sarani, which runs a residential programme for new converts to help them better understand Islam. She writes that while she was curious about Islam as a young student, it was her employer that introduced her to Sathya Sarani. "As per the advice of people of Sathyasarai (sic), the date on which I should leave home for converting to Islam was decided.''
She also cites the Social Democratic Party of India or SDPI. The affidavit says,"I was taken to the house of SDPI activist Seens Fasna where I lived. Then my father lodged a complaint with police. Besides he filed a habeas corpus petition in Kerala High Court.''
Mr Ashokan has alleged that his daughter, Akhila, was also converted by the Sathya Sarani and that groups like SDPI are part of the larger conspiracy, now being checked by the NIA, to recruit young women from Kerala to fight for ISIS. At least 21 people have gone missing from Kerala in the last year to fight with ISIS in either Afghanistan or Syria.
While the Kerala High Court and Supreme Court have been criticized for interfering in what has been described by Akhila's husband, Shafin Jahan, as a union of consenting adults, Mr Ashokan says the marriage was just a ploy by terror group recruiters to prevent his wife and him from intervening against her indoctrination.
The Palakkad woman's affidavit makes similar charges. "I was told that if I marry, I can escape from court proceedings (filed by parents, for example) fast. But I told that I did not want to marry.'' The woman goes on to narrate a court show down with her parents and how Sathya Sarani coached her against her parents' "gimmicks". The court however, ordered her to move into a state administered hostel and eight months later, she returned to Hinduism at which time the High Court "itself withdrew surveillance". She says, "Now I am a believer in Hinduism.''
Another statement is by a 27-year old woman with a Master's degree who converted to Islam in 2013. She says a centre in Ponnani in the north central part of Kerala facilitated her conversion and that the tenets of Islam had fascinated her younger self. She says she realized that she "was wrong" when her parents took her to court. She is quoted as testifying about "organized conversions involving huge financial stage and trafficking in humans.''
"Girls convert to Islam feigning love with intention to marry,'' she says making the same point as Mr Ashokan.
Noted lawyers who are representing Shafin Jahan's including Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaising say that Akhila Ashokan should be heard by the Supreme Court as well, a prospect that does not sit well with her father because she reportedly maintains that she converted to Islam and then married of her own will. "These women have no bearing on Hadiya's case. She says that she married and converted voluntarily. If they say women are being converted for money, they have to provide details of the money trail," said Ms Jaisingh.