New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found no evidence to suggest that women and men were being coerced to marry and convert to the Islamic faith while investigating inter-faith marriages in Kerala, the Hindustan Times reported. According to officials familiar with the case, while there may have been attempts made to facilitate conversions, the NIA has not recovered any evidence of a larger criminal design that could lead to prosecution of these cases.
“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,” the official said to Hindustan Times. He also stated that they had uncovered three cases of failed conversions during the course of their investigation.
The agency had looked into 11 inter-faith marriages from a list of 89 marriages that were in the law enforcement database, mostly due to complaints filed by parents. The examination was part of the enquiry ordered by the Supreme Court into cases of ‘love jihad’ or forceful conversion of Hindu men and women into Islam. The enquiry was ordered in the context of the Hadiya case.
Hadiya, then 24, converted to Islam and later married a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan. She made it explicit that she did both of these things of her own volition, but her father filed a case against Jahan accusing him of brainwashing and coercing her to convert. In May 2017, the Kerala high court annulled the marriage of the couple and placed Hadiya in the ‘custody’ of her parents. In March 2018, the Supreme Court had overturned the high court order and restored Hadiya’s marriage with Shafin Jahan, stating that an adult woman has the freedom to make her own marital choices and the courts cannot intervene in a consensual marriage.
According to the NIA report, out of the 11 marriages investigated the Popular Front of India (PFI) were found to be the common link which helped both men and women to convert to Islam. However, no prosecutable evidence was found against the PFI.
PFI’s legal advisor K.P. Muhammer Shareef, talking to Hindustan Times, said that the concept of ‘love jihad’ was a construction by right-wing forces to specifically target the Muslim community. “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.
The NIA official however warned against a clean chit to PFI. “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,” he said.