Privacy and individual rights in the case of Hadiya

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 02, 2017 12:38 hrs
Hadiya love jihad

The case of Hadiya, the girl who converted to Islam and got married just entered the next chapter. She was asked by the Supreme Court to head back to college to complete her academic pursuits. In essence, the court had set her free from the custody of her parents and directed her to pursue studies at the Salem College. The dean of the college was appointed as her guardian. It did not say anything about allowing her to meet her husband.

Her father K M Ashokan said he will move a contempt plea in the Supreme Court against Sivaraj Homeopathy Medical College in Salem; where his daughter studies, for its decision to allow her to meet her husband.

Her father was unhappy that Hadiya was allowed to speak to the media and questioned the decision to allow her to meet her husband saying in part, “The highest court of the country has sent her to the college to complete her education in a safe environment. If Jehan who has got an extremist link meets her it will compromise my daughter’s safety”.

This case has highlighted the on the restrictions imposed on women within families and the right that she has to make her own life decisions. Gautam Bhatia, an advocate in the Supreme Court, in a column for the Hindustan Times, cites the constitution in making the case that a citizen should be free to make their own choices -

The constitution is founded on a simple idea: to every adult citizen, it proclaims: “The State is not your keeper. Your family is not your keeper. You are free to make your choices, and yes – free also to make your mistakes.”

For this reason, there was a sense of unreality this Monday at the Supreme Court, especially when, after two hours of argument, the Court finally asked Hadiya what she wanted. Her answer was clear: to be free and to live with her husband”.

The ordeal that Hadiya had to undergo has helped shine a light on courts and the way in which they handled the case. It has also brought to the forefront religion, its extremes and the lens through which the public looks at them. As PV Dinesh writes in Outlook, the case has become a Hindu versus Muslim issue. In the column he examines the motivations and the case itself -

Hadiya is no longer a person, but an issue. An issue debated by media and society, weighed upon by State and Central Governments and used by radical elements for political capitalization”.

In Hadiya’s case, it (religious conversion) was brought about by peer influence; the fascination she felt for Islam due to the exposition of the same by two of her close friends. This episode has revealed to mainstream society, the existence of such institutions, fundamentalist and politico religious, from both the quarters”.

Hadiya’s theosophical life and sudden marriage will win finally, as she has crossed the boundaries of legal reach. The court’s power is limited to fact finding and ruling according to law and legal entitlements”.

The court has come under criticism for its handling of the case. Dushyant a lawyer, in a column for the Mumbai Mirror comes down on the Supreme Court labeling its conduct regressive –

The highest court of the land, the guardian of the Constitution of India and of individual liberty, is keeping an adult woman away from her husband, because it suspects she may have been brainwashed by evangelists-cumterrorists”.

I have no hesitation in saying- the Supreme Court has conducted itself no better than the most regressive khap panchayat in the country. The difference is only of attire, location, fancy buildings and a façade of respectability”.

To complicate matters is the NIA. AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi in a column for The Print, criticizes the role of the NIA and says the love-jihad propaganda of the RSS and BJP should be called out –

This is not a case of ‘love jihad’, which the Sangh Parivar was shouting about from the rooftops. Hadiya had converted to Islam out of her own free will. There was no inducement; there was no fraud or pressure on her”.

There are also questions about the role of the NIA, which told the Supreme Court on Monday that Hadiya’s husband had spoken to an ISIS recruiter. If that is the case, why have they not arrested him? And how is that conversation connected to Hadiya’s marriage to that person?

Some have criticized the media and the way a Hindu right wing term (love jihad) is being normalized. Sabha K in a column for The Print highlights how a narrative played out this time helped turn identities of marginalized people into click-bait commodities –

Nearly all of Indian media, from conservative to progressive-leaning news portals have all used the words ‘Love Jihad’ in their headlines while covering the case for Hadiya’s autonomy”.

Such headlines and captions are only part of a larger, structural problem. The urge for covering social issues through the lens of a ‘buzzword’ removed from its social and political context comes from seeing people’s identities and problems as news bytes with a sell-by date”.

Lost in the chorus are Hadiya’s own words. She said in part, “I've been in unlawful custody for 11 months. I want my husband to be my guardian; I want to meet my husband & I want to complete my studies”. She seems to be one who is clear in her intentions but bound by courts and her parents; unable to live her life on her own terms. A win for Hadiya will definitely be a win for herself and a victory of constitutional rights.