"We are only trying to bring out the truth. It is that love jihad is a reality and we want justice," says Bindu Sampath, Nimisha alias Fathima’s mother.
Nimisha is one among the many people from Kerala who went missing from the state and joined the Islamic terror outfit ISIS.
Bindu, along with several others, including Hadiya’s (born Akhila) father Ashokan, have rolled out a collective to unite parents of ‘love jihad’ victims. Though the Supreme Court has said that Hadiya is free to make her own choices and the Kerala High Court had in one or two instances warned parents not to dub inter-religious weddings as ‘love jihad’, the group of parents disagree.
In 2016, Nimisha embraced Islam after falling in love with a Muslim man. When that relationship fell apart, she married Bexen, a Muslim convert from Palakkad, and the couple soon went missing.
"In May, it will be two full years since my daughter went missing, without any trace. No calls, not even a message from her. What has the government and the investigating agencies found so far? Absolutely, nothing. The government isn't intervening to bring my daughter back. And I am not the only aggrieved parent," Bindu tells TNM.
Elaborating on how disappointed she is with the Centre and the state’s attitude, Bindu says:
"Isn't the government uninterested because this has happened to common people? What if daughters from influential families were converted and taken away? The approach would have been different."
This is where the role of a collective becomes necessary, she points out.
"Like me, there are many parents in the state who have lost their daughters to love jihad. The numbers are alarming. But many do not know what to do, whom to approach. That's why we have formed this collective. We are not looking for publicity, but justice. There's nothing wrong in forming such a group; I feel the move has come quite late," Bindu says.
Hadiya’s case, on the other hand, was one that hit national headlines.
Hadiya converted to Islam and later married a Muslim man Shafin Jahan. However, her parents took the case to court, claiming their daughter had been indoctrinated, and that there was a larger conspiracy behind her conversion and marriage. The Kerala High Court had annulled their marriage, but Hadiya filed an appeal and the case went to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court had, in November last year, sent the 25-year-old woman back to her college in Salem to complete her course. The apex court clearly said that it was entirely Hadiya’s decision who she should marry and no one can intervene.
Love jihad refers to the claim that Muslim men lure Hindu women into relationships and marriage for the purpose of conversion. But Hadiya had converted to Islam long before she got married to Shafin Jehan. Therefore, she did not 'convert for love'.
But Hadiya’s father Asokan believes otherwise, and insists on calling it a case of ‘love jihad’.
Ashokan tells TNM that the government's cold response has forced them to form a collective.
"I agree the case is subjudice and there are investigative agencies looking into it, but a forum like this is of utmost necessity. This is not my individual problem anymore. There are so many parents who have lost their daughters," Ashokan says.
The forum has concluded one official meeting and will formally launch when more members come together.
Speaking to TNM, critic J Devika dismissed Ashokan's claim that Hadiya case is one that of love jihad. Commenting on the newly-formed collective, Devika said: "Such forums are formed when people believe in a particular cause. In this case, these parents strongly believe that love jihad is real and that their daughter choosing to convert and marry a person of her choice is dangerous. We have had collectives like 'Purasha peedana parihara vedi', which wanted to save men from being harassed by women. Although it is laughable, the forum gained much support. Similarly, this new collective will also influence many."