After SC gives her relief, Hadiya says still waiting for freedom

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Hadiya02Hadiya alias Akhila, the 24-year-old woman from Kerala whose decision to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man led to a national debate over religious conversions and individual liberty, has said that she is “not free” and appealed that she be allowed to meet her husband.

“I asked for freedom from court. I wanted to meet my husband but the fact is that I’m not free till now and that’s the truth. I am demanding basic rights that every Indian citizen has. It has nothing to do with politics or caste. All I want is to talk to people I like,” Hadiya said while addressing reporters.

The Supreme Court on November 27 removed Hadiya from the custody of her parents and ordered that she be sent to her college in Salem, Tamil Nadu, to complete her studies. The SC order states that she is to be treated like any other student, as per the hostel rules. Hadiya deposed before the SC that she wants her freedom, that she has been in unlawful custody for the last 11 months and wants her husband to be her guardian so she can complete her education and be a good citizen.

The NIA submitted its 100-page report on forced conversions to the Supreme Court. It also questioned the role of the organisation ‘SathyaSarani’ where Hadiya took temporary refuge from her parents, stating that Hadiya was forcibly converted to Islam by the Popular Front of India (PFI) and brainwashed by ‘hypnotic counselling’. The Court reportedly commented on this aspect, wondering whether the aspect of conversion in Kerala must be delinked from the Hadiya case. The matter has been adjourned till the third week of January.

Hadiya, who went by the name Akhila before she converted to Islam has been caught in a legal conundrum since 2016, and two habeas corpus petitions filed by her father Ashokan. The first petition was dismissed, after which in August, 2016 Ashokan filed the second habeas corpus petition, alleging that Hadiya was going to be forcibly married off so she could be taken out of the country and that she was in the clutches of radicalised Muslims. On December 21, Akhila had claimed to have married a Shafin Jahan two days before. This move angered the High Court, which on May 24 annulled the marriage and called it a ‘sham’. Shafin Jahan then filed a Special Leave Petition against the HC order in the Supreme Court, which then ordered an NIA probe into the incident.