Not every love is ‘Jihad’, forced Ghar Wapsi illegal: Kerala HC

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Not every love is 'Jihad', forced Ghar Wapsi illegal: Kerala HC

Kochi: In a landmark judgement admonishing the communalisation of inter religious marriages by fundamentalist elements, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ensured the triumph of love describing it as a pure feeling that broke all the societal and religious barriers.

Delivering the judgement on a habeas corpus petition filed by Anees Hameed, a 25-year-old from Kannur, who had moved the high court seeking the release of his wife Sruthi Meledath from the wrongful confinement by her family, the division bench of V Chitambaresh and Satish Ninan on October 19, upheld the communal harmony existing in God’s own country Kerala and lambasted the various religious groups for misrepresenting all inter religious marriages as “Love Jihad” stating, “Every case of inter-religious marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvas and create fissures in the communal harmony otherwise existing in the state.”

Terming the forced re-conversions by the parents or religious flag-bearers in the name of “Ghar Wapsi” of the parties who have converted of their own accord within the legal provisions and in exercise of their democratic right, as illegal, the court ruled that Sruthi be allowed to stay with Hameed. It dismissed the petitions of the woman’s parents and a helpline run by a Christian group that wanted to implead itself in the case.

“We are appalled to notice the recent trend in the state to sensationalise every case of inter-religious marriage as either love jihad or ghar wapsi. Disturbing news is coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriages are threatened with violence or violence is actually committed on them,’’ it said.

Terming such acts of violence or threats or harassment as wholly illegal and recommending severe punishment to the perpetrators, the bench said,”This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter. But they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence, and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage.’’

While dismissing the plea of the parents for custody of Sruthi, the court vouched that it would “protect the individual liberty of even the lowest citizen of this country and unlock the doors of freedom if there is a faintest doubt that she is unlawfully confined or illegally detained.”

Referring to American civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, the bench pronounced, “Love recognises no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Lauding Hameed’s wife, the court said, “We applaud the extraordinary courage shown by Sruthi to live up to her conviction and decry the attempt of her parents to deflect the course of justice by misleading litigations. Sruthi is ordered to be set at liberty and it is for the couple to decide their future course of action without interference from her parents.”

Sruthi had contested that after the inter-faith marriage, her family had forcibly kept her at the Siva Sakthi Yoga Vidya Kendram near Kochi, which helps “reconvert” Hindu women who have embraced other religions. Deposing in the court two weeks ago, Sruthi had alleged that she was tortured by counsellors and Yoga trainers at the centre when she refused to part from Hameed.

Sruthi and Hameed fell in love when they were studying in a college in Kannur and later tied the nuptial knot. But soon after their marriage, Sruthi’s parents filed a habeas corpuswith the high court in May. After producing her in court, she was allowed to stay with Hameed. However, later, her parents reportedly forced her into the said Yoga centre and confined her there for nearly two months.

In a similar case, the Kerala government recently, had told the Supreme Court that a police investigation into the marriage of a Muslim man to a Hindu woman who had embraced Islam had not found anything that would warrant a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as per the apex court’s order.

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