Pursuing ‘Love Jihad’, NIA Team Visits Bangladesh Despite Woman Saying on WhatsApp She’s ‘Happy’

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The case is reminiscent of anti-terror agency’s probe into Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jehan that yielded no evidence of a conspiracy

Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — A team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is visiting Bangladesh to probe an alleged “love jihad” case, NIA sources have said in New Delhi. “A team of NIA has reached Bangladesh to collect details in the alleged love jihad case it had registered in August last year,” they told IANS.

The visit comes a week after the NIA questioned the woman on WhatsApp. 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 told NIA that she was happy with her husband and had willingly converted to Islam, the Hindustan Times reported quoting people familiar with the development who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The NIA has named Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and two US-based preachers of Pakistan origin as accused in an FIR pertaining to the high-profile case.

The woman’s father, a Chennai-based businessman, complained in May last year that she was abducted in London by Nafees who is the son of Sardar Shekhawat Hussain, a senior opposition leader belonging to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

The woman’s father alleged that she had been forcibly taken to Bangladesh after she was radicalised and converted to Islam. The woman studied in London with Nafees. Tamil Nadu Police asked the NIA to investigate the matter because it had international ramifications.

After recording her parents’ statement, the country’s premier 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,” an NIA officer who didn’t want to be named told Hindustan Times.

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.

Now comes the report that the NIA team is visiting Bangladesh. The source told IANS that the team will question the woman if she married on her free will or was kidnapped. The anti-terror probe agency will also question Nafees and his politician father.

This is not the first time that the NIA is pursuing an alleged “love Jihad” case so enthusiastically despite not finding any evidence of a conspiracy in its previous probes.

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.


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