The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently questioned on WhatsApp an Indian woman from a Chennai business family who converted to Islam to marry the son of a Bangladeshi politician after meeting him in London, where they studied together, to find out if their marital union was a case of what some Hindu groups describe as “love jihad”.
The agency did not find any evidence that the interfaith marriage was “love jihad”, a term groups use to describe some relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, but one that the courts and the Union government do not officially recognise. The woman said she was happy with her husband and had willingly converted to Islam, people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.
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Her father, a Chennai-based businessman, complained in May last year that she was abducted in London by the son of a leader of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and a former member of Parliament. He alleged that she had been forcibly taken to Bangladesh after she was radicalised and converted to Islam. The woman studied in London with the Bangladesh politician’s son.
Tamil Nadu Police asked the NIA to investigate the matter because it had international ramifications.
After recording her parents’ statement, the central anti-terror agency contacted her on WhatsApp. “During the questioning (over WhatsApp), she told us that she married him willingly after converting to Islam and has not been forced at all in the marriage. She said she is happy,” said an NIA officer who didn’t want to be named.
Officials cited above said their probe in the case was “more or less over” and a closure report will be filed in court after other verifications are completed.
This is not the first time that an NIA probe of a “love jihad” angle has not yielded any evidence of a conspiracy.
An NIA spokesperson said the case is under investigation.
“A complaint of kidnapping was filed last year and we had registered a case,” said Chennai commissioner of police, Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, unable to recall the sections under which the case was registered. “Since we transferred the case to the NIA, we aren’t aware of further details or the present status of the investigation.”
Another senior official of Tamil Nadu police who did not wish to be named said, “When we get a complaint of such a nature which has international and religious ramifications, we don’t investigate.”
“Our stand is to transfer it to the appropriate agency and in a case like this it is the NIA.” The official, however, could not recall the complaint made last year.
NIA’s probe of interfaith marriages in Kerala, including that of Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jehan that became a cause célèbre, revealed that there had been no coercion to marry the brides and convert them to Islam. It examined several cases in Kerala where it was alleged that the woman had been forced to convert to Islam. The Supreme Court too, in 2018, overruled a Kerala high court order that annulled the marriage of Hadiya to Jehan, saying the right to marry a person of one’s choice was integral to Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.
The Central government has said in Parliament that there was no term such as “love jihad” in the law. Union minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said in the Lok Sabha in February 2020: “Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala high court. The term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws”.
However, two stringent recent laws in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh appear to want to crack down on interfaith relationships that allegedly use marriage as a lure to force Hindu women to convert to Islam. The stringent laws do not use the words “love jihad”, and the UP law has already been challenged in the Supreme Court.