Kerala radicalisation: unbiased probe key

There has been increasing concern over reports of growing Islamic radicalisation in Kerala. One theme which has particularly fuelled the concern is what is called “love jihad’’, a coinage for the alleged luring of Hindu girls by Muslim boys, trapping them in love and marriage. Love jihad came into focus after reports that a number of Hindu girls and Muslim boys from Kerala who got married in recent months have landed up in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan or the battlefields in Syria. The charge was that they were being recruited to fight for the Islamic State (IS). While this has been a subject of debate in the state, the issue has received special attention after a Kerala high court order which annulled the marriage of a woman, Akhila/Hadiya, who converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. The court also ordered that she be kept in the custody of her father, who had opposed the marriage. The appeal against the order is before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ordered an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the circumstances of the woman’s conversion and into charges of radicalisation of Hindu women in Kerala. The court has not given its judgement on the validity of the woman’s marriage, though it wondered whether the high court had the power to annul the marriage, and the case has been adjourned. The woman is 24 years of age and has the freedom to decide who she should marry. The high court’s decision to send her into the custody of her father against her wishes is of dubious legal merit. There are also questions about the propriety of an investigation by the NIA when the anti-terrorist body has already claimed that there is an organised radicalisation programme being implemented in Kerala. Strangely, the court has not yet heard out the woman on the matter.

The Hadiya case is complicated by many dimensions like a woman’s freedom of choice in the matter of marriage and religion, the high court’s questionable orders and comments, and the context of “love jihad’’ and radicalisation in which the case is framed. While the legal issues will be decided by the court, it is yet to be proved whether it is a case of love jihad and radicalisation. However, the widespread concern caused by such cases needs to be addressed, and there is a case for an investigation into the activities of radical groups in the state. It might be wrong to link all conversions and marriages to terrorism without sufficient evidence. An independent and credible investigation will help to answer the questions raised by the recent events.

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