“I want justice!” the 25-year-old screamed as she was whisked away by the police into the Cochin International Airport in Kerala. “I was not forcibly converted, nor was I forced to marry,” she yelled, hoping her voice would carry to the waiting media. “I want to go with my husband, I want justice!”
The woman shouting these words is Hadiya, the young Muslim convert who has stepped out of her house for the first time in several months. Hadiya, who was earlier called Akhila, has been in the middle of a massive controversy ever since she decided to embrace Islam and subsequently marry a Muslim man.
Hadiya has been detained in her house by her father Ashokan, who has not allowed activists, media persons, or even the State Commission for Women, to meet her. The only reason she is out of her house now is because the Supreme Court ordered that Hadiya should give her own testimony in open court on Monday, 27 November.
So what is the case all about? How did it start and why is she going to speak in the Supreme Court on Monday? Here’s the full timeline:
6 January, 2016: Akhila Goes 'Missing'
Born to Hindu parents in Vaikkom in Kottayam district, Akhila was studying for a Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery degree at a college in Salem. She was living at a house in Salem with Faseena and Jaseena, who are sisters. On 6 January, Akhila’s parents, Ashokan and Ponnamma, filed a missing person’s complaint.
Ashokan then filed a habeas corpus petition, and accused Aboobacker – Faseena and Jaseena’s father – of taking Akhila away.
19 January, 2016: Hadiya Appears in Court
Appearing in the Kerala High Court because of her father’s habeas corpus petition, Akhila told the court that she had converted to Islam and had taken the name Hadiya. In fact, she said that she had been practicing Islam for three years at that point, and had officially converted recently.
She told the court that she had left her home on 2 January, 2016, because her father had seen her pray the Islamic way and had warned her against doing so.
Akhila then went to Jaseena's and Faseena's house in Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district. She then joined a course in Terbiathul Islam Sabha, and contacted Sathya Sarani, an educational institution and conversion centre in Manjeri, Malappuram, for a place to stay. Sathya Sarani sent Sainaba, a social worker and member of the Popular Front of India, to meet Akhila.
From 7 January, Akhila started staying with Sainaba.
25 January, 2016: Court Dismisses Ashokan's Petition
While Akhila's father Ashokan alleged that Sathya Sarani was involved in several illegal and forced conversions, the Kerala High Court dismissed his habeas corpus petition, after finding that Hadiya was not in illegal confinement.
17 August, 2016: Ashokan Files Second Petition, Claims Efforts to Take Hadiya to Syria
Six months after the Kerala High Court dismissed Ashokan's habeas corpus petition, the 57-year-old filed another petition. This time, he alleged that efforts were being made to transport Hadiya out of the country and to get her hurriedly married off to a Muslim man.
The court passed an interim order stating that Hadiya should be kept under surveillance to ensure that she was not taken out of the country.
When the case was heard later in August, Hadiya told the court that Sainaba was her guardian and that she did not want to go back to her parents. The court sent her to a hostel in Ernakulam after her father expressed concerns over her safety.
September 2016: Hadiya Questions Why She Was Being Forced to Live Against Her Wishes
In September, Hadiya told the court that she was being lodged in the hostel for no fault of hers and that she should be allowed to reside in a place of her choice. She told the court that she does not possess a passport, and her lawyer argued that there was no possibility of her being taken to Syria.
The court sent Hadiya with Sainaba, and asked them to inform the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Perinthalmanna if Akhila was shifting to another place again.
November 2016: Court Expresses Concern Over Hadiya Living With Sainaba
In November, the court expressed concern over Hadiya continuing to live with Sainaba and sought their source of income. Hadiya said that as a doctor trainee, she was earning a monthly income of Rs 2,000 to sustain herself. However, the court noted that she had not completed her House Surgency and that she was not eligible to practice.
19 December, 2016: The Semblance of a Resolution
The court asked Hadiya to complete her course and shift to the college hostel. Hadiya agreed to the court’s condition. Her father was asked to appear before the court on 21 December with her certificates, so that Hadiya could resume her studies.
But on the same evening, Hadiya did something that would anger the court in the coming days: She got married to Shafin Jahan at Sainaba’s residence, and did not inform either the court of her parents about it.
21 December, 2016: Hadiya Appears in Court With Shafin
The court was not convinced about Hadiya’s wedding, and the judges were livid with what had happened. The court observed that the marriage took place on 19 December, on the same day the court had last heard the case, and also raised several doubts regarding the manner in which the wedding was held.
The question that now crops up is whether the marriage that has been allegedly performed is not a device to transport her out of the country. We are not aware of the identity of the person who is said to have married her, nor his antecedents.
"As per the Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with her parents, until she is properly married off," the court observed.
The court said that it was dissatisfied with the manner in which the marriage was conducted and sent Akhila to SNV Sadanam, a ladies’ hostel in Ernakulam, ordering that she shall have no access to mobile phones.
January 2017: Police Report on Who Shafin Jahan Is
After the information about Hadiya’s wedding to Shafin came to light, the court asked the Deputy SP of Perinthalmanna to submit a report on Shafin.
In January 2017, the police told the High Court that Shafin had links with Sathya Sarani and that he was an accused in a criminal case. He was also part of a WhatsApp group called ‘Thanal’ run by the core committee of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the police said.
24 May, 2017: Court Annuls Hadiya and Shafin's Wedding
The Kerala High Court called Hadiya’s wedding to Shafin a sham. The court concluded that Shafin was "only a stooge who has been assigned to play the role of going through a marriage ceremony."
Are there any radical organizations involved, are questions that plague an inquisitive mind. But sadly, there are no answers available in this case
Calling the young woman, ‘weak and vulnerable’, the court said that she had no clear plans for her life or future and said that there was an organized racket behind the conversion.
The court, in what has stunned legal experts and jurists, nullified the marriage, and sent Hadiya back to the custody of her parents.
16 August, 2017: SC Orders NIA Probe
Two months after the Kerala HC nullified their marriage, Shafin approached the Supreme Court with a special leave petition against the HC order.
Hearing the case, the apex court took note of the observations of the HC that there were radical groups influencing and converting young girls.
After asking the Kerala government to produce all the documents related to the case, the SC, on 16 August, ordered an NIA probe into the incident.
3 October, 2017: SC Questions Kerala HC for Annulling Hadiya's Wedding, Picks on Its Own Earlier Order
Hearing a petition filed by Shafin Jahan against the NIA probe into the case, the SC bench with CJI Dipak Misra questioned the earlier SC order by Justice Khehar.
Besides questioning the Kerala HC's power to declare a marriage as null, CJI Dipak Misra also raised doubts about Hadiya being sent to her father’s home.
Either we will appoint loco parentis or we will send her somewhere safe. Father can’t insist on her custody.
26 October, 2017: Video shows Hadiya pleading for help
"You need to get me out. I will be killed anytime, tomorrow or the day after, I am sure. I know my father is getting angry. When I walk, he is hitting and kicking me. If my head or any other part of my body hits somewhere and I die..." Hadiya said in a video released by activist Rahul Easwar.
16-17 November, 2017: NIA Takes Hadiya's Statement
The officials of the NIA Kochi unit took the statement at Hadiya’s house at Vaikom in Kottayam over two days.
21 November, 2017: Hadiya's Father Moves for In-Camera Proceedings
With days to go for Hadiya’s testimony in the Supreme Court, her father Ashokan, who hasn’t allowed her to step out of the house or meet anyone ever since the Kerala High Court gave him custody, sought in-camera proceedings. He claimed that an open court hearing will put mental pressure on Hadiya. His petition was dismissed.
25 November, 2017: Hadiya Leaves for Delhi, Screams for Justice
“I was not forcibly converted nor was I forced to marry. I want to go with my husband and I should get justice,” Hadiya screamed while on her way to Delhi to give her testimony in open court.
27 November, 2017: What will Hadiya say in court?
(This article was first published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)