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Opinion

The NIA investigates the union of the Chennai-Dhaka couple who studied in London and does not find a ‘jihad of love’

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently interrogated an Indian woman from a Chennai business family who converted to Islam to marry the son of a Bangladeshi politician on WhatsApp after meeting him in London, where they studied together, to find out if their marriage union was a case of what some Hindu groups describe as “love jihad.”

The agency found no evidence that the interfaith marriage was “love jihad,” a term that groups use to describe some relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, but which the courts and the Union government do not officially recognize. The woman said she was happy with her husband and that he had voluntarily converted to Islam, people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

Her father, a Chennai 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. She claimed that she had been forcibly taken to Bangladesh after she radicalized and converted to Islam. The woman studied in London with the son of the Bangladeshi politician.

Tamil Nadu police asked the NIA to investigate the matter because it had international ramifications.

After recording her parents’ statement, the central counter-terrorism agency contacted her on WhatsApp. “During interrogation (via WhatsApp), she told us that she voluntarily married him after converting to Islam and that she has not been forced into marriage at all. He said he’s happy, ”said an NIA official who declined to be named.

The officials cited above said their investigation into the case was “more or less over” and that a closing report will be filed in court after further verifications are completed.

This is not the first time that an NIA investigation into a “love jihad” angle has yielded no evidence of a conspiracy.

A spokesperson for the NIA said the case is under investigation.

“Last year a kidnapping complaint was filed and we had registered a case,” said Chennai Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, unable to remember the sections under which the case was registered. “Since we transferred the case to the NIA, we have not known any further details or the current status of the investigation.”

Another senior Tamil Nadu police official who did not want to be named said: “When we receive a complaint of such a nature that it has international and religious ramifications, we do not investigate.”

“Our stand is to transfer it to the corresponding agency and in a case like this it is the NIA.” The official, however, could not recall the complaint made last year.

The NIA investigation into interreligious marriages in Kerala, including that of Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jehan, which became a celebrity cause, revealed that there was no coercion to marry the brides and convert them to Islam. It examined several cases in Kerala in which the woman was alleged to have been forced to convert to Islam. The Supreme Court also, in 2018, struck down an order from Kerala’s high court annulling Hadiya’s marriage to Jehan, saying that the right to marry a person of her choice was an integral part of Article 21 (right to life and freedom) of the Constitution.

The central government has said in Parliament that there is no term like “love jihad” in the law. The Union Minister of State for the Home, G Kishan Reddy, said at the Lok Sabha in February 2020: “Article 25 of the Constitution establishes the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, moral and health. Several courts have supported this view, including the Kerala High Court. The term ‘love jihad’ is not defined by current laws ”.

However, two recent strict laws in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh seem to want to crack down on interreligious relationships that allegedly use marriage as a lure to force Hindu women to convert to Islam. The strict laws do not use the words “love jihad”, and the UP law has already been challenged in the Supreme Court.

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