Views from Srinagar
TWO high profile cases, one concerning Muslim women’s matrimonial rights and the other sexual exploitation of women devotees by self-styled god man, Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda were decided by Supreme Court of India and Special CBI Court recently. Supreme Court of India in its judgment delivered on August 22, while deciding on triple talak (Talaq-e-Biddat) case held triple talaq against the basic tenets of Quran, as well as unconstitutional. In other high profile case, the self-styled god man Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for raping two of his women devotees. Both the cases received enormous press and commentary from legal, political, and religious figures. The two cases are bound to remain part of religious, political, and public discourse for some time, and more particularly, the judgment about the triple talak due to its sensitive religious and political connotation.
Unfortunately, another case that involves the basics rights of a Keralite women has been ignored by the mainstream media and have also remained absent from the public discourse.
What has come to fore about this particular case so for is: The 27-year-old woman Hadiya, a homeopath by profession was brought up in a conservative Hindu family as Akhila in Kottayam in Kerala. Hadiya married a Mulsim man after converting to Islam of her own will. Initially a court in Kerala in 2016 rejected a petition calling for annulment of Hadiya’s marriage with the Muslim man holding the view that as an adult she was free to choose her life partner. Hadiya’s parents moved the Kerala High Court with a fresh petition seeking their daughter’s custody claiming the marriage to be a case of “love jihad” and “Hadiya being indoctrinated by radical Islamists with terror links”.
On her appearance in the Court, Hadiya declared she had married Shefin Jehan, a 27-year-old man out of her own will. Hadiya confessed she had voluntarily converted to Islam. Following this, Hadiya’s parents filed an affidavit in Kerala High Court alleging Shefin Jehan was a member of “terror group” and was involved in criminal cases. The affidavit as reported by few news portals said, “Their “daughter’s indoctrination and marriage to Jehan was part of a larger plot to send her to Syria to serve Islamic State (IS). After hearing the arguments from the two parties, Kerala High Court ordered a police inquiry. The Court on May 24, 2017, on receiving the police inquiry report annulled Hadiya’s marriage with Jehan, and gave Hadiya’s custody to her parents. Jehan in July 2017 moved Supreme Court seeking re-establishment of her marital status, calling the Kerala High Court order a “human rights violation”. In turn, the Supreme Court on August 16, 2017, ordered NIA to investigate the “love jihad” angle into the Hadiya’s marriage and conversion case. NIA, which is to conduct the probe under a retired Supreme Court Judge is yet to file its report. The woman whose fate hangs in the balance is confined to her parents’ home, apparently against her will. Considering the press and public as well as political attention the petition of some Muslim women against the practice of triple talaq got, Hadiya’s case has been by and large ignored by media. As an adult, Hadiya has every right to conduct herself and live the life as she chooses within the parameters of decency and what is legal. And media as the watchdog needs to stand by her and give her case an appropriate coverage. Nothing stands proven in the court of law or otherwise against Hadiya or the man she chose to marry. Barring few television debates and little press, the media has conveniently maintained silence over the issue. This raises an important question whether the mainstream media in India finds Hadiya’s rights less important than Muslim women’s rights who bear the brunt of the practice of triple talaq. This brings to fore the hypocrisy of the mainstream media in India, which seems to be playing to the tune of majoritarian views on the issues.
Hidiya’s case recently witnessed an interesting development. Hadiya’s parents filed a police complaint against Rahul Eswar, an activist and grandson of Kandararu Maheshwararu, senior supreme priest of Sabarimala. He had visited Hadiya’s family and afterwards released a video he had made there. The father of the girl while accusing the Eswar of cheating the family has said, “Being the grandson of Sabariamala thantri (main priest) we gave him some consideration and allowed him to visit us.