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Small mercies: Finally, Supreme Court has acknowledged Hadiya’s right

Are women citizens of this nation? Do they have the right to exercise their minds and wills, choose their faiths and their spouses? That question, basic and astounding as it is, has been at the core of the legal ordeal that 24-year-old Hadiya (formerly Akhila Ashokan) has been forced to undergo over the last year.

 

The Supreme Court has finally ended what the Kerala high court wrought when it declared her marriage to a Muslim man null and void, on the basis of a complaint from her father who alleged that she was being “forcefully converted to Islam”. Akhila, an adult and mentally fit woman, had chosen to convert to Islam, and then chosen her partner Shefin Jahan. This was portrayed as “love jihad”, and NIA has been asked to investigate possible links with Islamic State (IS).

 

This cloud of aspersions has been allowed to obscure the only relevant fact here: Hadiya’s choice to marry and practise any religion she wants is granted by our Constitution. Nobody has the right to “guard” her or claim her as territory, against her own stated intentions. She is a rights-bearing individual, not a symbol for any community or patriarchal order. NIA is free to probe IS luring or coercing people to join it, but we are not well served by lazy Islamophobic associations that link terrorism and threat with marriages. At long last, the Supreme Court has ended the sham that deprived Hadiya of her liberties.

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