‘Govt A Mute Spectator, Forced Religious Conversions Is Very Serious’: NCW.
Lambasting the state government for remaining a mute spectator to forced religious conversions for political gains, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma said Kerala has become a land of forced religious conversions. NCW, she said, has received a large number of petitions citing girls were being forcefully converted to Islam. “Women are lured, blackmailed, tempted and forced to convert from one religion to another. The condition of converted women in the state is pathetic and conversions are higher in Kerala than any other state,”. Women are being forcibly converted in Kerala under the threat of blackmail and after being lured with the promise of money and jobs. ‘’There are dedicated groups behind these conversions. I spoke to several women in Kochi who narrated how they were blackmailed. In one case, a boy snapped the photograph of a girl and threatened to post it on social media if she doesn’t convert. In another instance, a teenager lured a woman by offering her money to convert to a particular religion. She was lodged in Sathyasarani for conversion,” she said.
The NCW team is on a three-day visit to the state to study the issues faced by women following reports of forced religious conversions in the state.“We considered scores of petitions dealing with religious conversions. I am not naming any institution, but girls are being converted. There are a number of institutions in the state which are indulging in conversions,” she said.
The Kerala Women’s Commission was purely taking a political stand on religious conversions without accepting reality. “They are being political. They cannot say the truth in the open as they fear it will affect their votes. But I will say what I have seen and heard during my tour here,” she said.
The real spirit of an inter-religious love marriage is questioned when conversion takes place, she said. “Why do people in love need to change religion? Conversion is not necessary if you are really in love.”
She said there have been incidents where a few girls converted into a particular religion have been used by terrorist groups. The NCW chairperson said she would also meet the state police chief and hand over the complaints to him. The commission would also recommend a probe into the funding of organisations behind religious conversions.
The issue of alleged “forced conversion” of girls in Kerala is getting serious, the National Commission for Women’s in-charge Rekha Sharma said after meeting Hadiya, a 24-year-old woman whose marriage with a Muslim man is at the centre of a nationwide controversy.
Sharma met Hadiya at her family home in Vaikom in Kottayam district, a week after the Supreme Court directed her father to produce her before it on November 27.
“I just met Akhila – Hadiya. NCW was concerned about her well being. She is in good health, she has not been beaten up or anything, she is eating her food and she was smiling, she was happy,” she said, adding that there were no security issues.
“She said she is willing to go to court. She is waiting for November 27. I am OK. I will talk to the court. That is what she said,” Sharma said.
The meeting came amid complaints from various Kerala- based Muslim bodies that the woman’s rights were being violated in the confines of her home.
“Many types of lures, many other threatenings, blackmailing, all types of things are happening. This is not one small thing which we are reading in Delhi… But this is getting serious,” she told here after meeting some other girls who were allegedly forced to convert.
Sharma claimed that the girls had told her how they were “manipulated” and how “forced conversions” took place.
They said that boys would take selfies with them and threaten them that the picture would be circulated in social media if they did not agree to marriage or conversion, she claimed.
One of the girls who underwent a “very very horrifying” experience was just 17 years old, Sharma said, adding that instead of using ‘Love Jihad’, she would use the term “forced conversion”.
The Kerala High Court had annulled Hadiya’s marriage with Shafin Jahan after her parents argued he was a radicalised person and took her into their custody.
In Hadiya’s case, there was no love as such, “It’s not a case of Love Jihad as there’s no love in that marriage. She spoke to Shafin only twice or thrice. She met him only once before the marriage, which was arranged within a day. It was an arranged marriage, but not by her parents. Somebody else arranged it without the consent of her parents. Because of the marriage, she wants to live with Shafin,” said Sharma.
According to Sharma, Hadiya is physically fine. “She’s very alert and up-to-date about the incidents taking place. She wants to come out of her residence. I promised to take her out. I also spoke to her parents separately. Hadiya is neither assaulted nor beaten up and there’re no human rights violations,” she said.
Sharma’s statement is contradictory to claims made by activists that Hadiya is forcefully confined to her residence. They claimed Hadiya is being physically and mentally tortured by the parents.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud last month directed the woman’s father to ensure she is produced on November 27 for an interaction.
The court is hearing an appeal by Jahan, who had challenged the annulement of their marriage by the high court, saying it was an insult to the independence of women in the country.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has informed the court that there was a well-oiled machinery working in the state which is indoctrinating and radicalising society and that 89 cases of similar nature have been reported.
Jahan, allegedly a member of radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India, had on September 20 moved the apex court, seeking recall of its August 16 order directing NIA to probe the case.
A section of women in the state have become victims of human trafficking in one way or the other and it is a matter of serious concern, said National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma. She was speaking after meeting State Police Chief Loknath Behera. Sharma said women in the state are falling prey to the radical forces and it is an alarming trend. “Women in the state are being lured by terrorist forces. Terror modules are behind the forced conversions here. The state government should investigate. It is quite alarming and I have asked the DGP to take action on it,”
She called on the DGP after receiving over 15 complaints from various women’s organisations in the state expressing concern over many women being taken away from their families and terming it as ‘trafficking’.
The NCW chairperson also said she had informed the DGP about the funding organisations supporting the women who ran away from their families. Meanwhile, Bindhu – the mother of Nimisha alias Fathima who is suspected to have left the country to join IS after marrying a Muslim youth – met Sharma.
Bindhu also handed over a written complaint to Sharma requesting the latter to make efforts to find her daughter. She said her daughter has been missing for the last one and half years. Bindhu also spoke to the media and stressed she was not a member of any political party and it was the concern of a mother who is looking for her missing child. “I am praying to the almighty that my daughter and her family will be returned safely,” Bindhu said.