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NIA investigators hopeful of finding link between inter-faith marriages in the Kerala and radical Islamic outfit PFI

Even as the Supreme Court presides over a case to re-examine its earlier order of a probe by the National Investigation Agency into the marriage between Hadiya alias Akhila Ashokan and Shafin Jahan, it has now come to light that the premier anti-terror agency is also examining at least 90 other inter-faith marriages that took place in Kerala for a possible ‘love jihad’ angle.

The Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a petition filed by Jahan challenging a Kerala High Court order which annulled his marriage with Hadiya while calling it a case of ‘love jihad’, had ordered the NIA to probe if there was a “pattern” to these inter-faith marriages in the southern state which could be linked with terror.

The NIA probe had been ordered when the matter was being heard by a Bench presided over by former Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar. However, Justice Khehar’s successor – Chief Justice Dipak Misra – who is now presiding over the case has been urged by Jahan’s counsel, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, to re-examine the order for an NIA probe.

The latest reports about a much broader NIA probe into other inter-faith marriages that took place in Kerala over the last two years could trigger a debate over whether a counter-terror agency should be used to probe a marriage between two possibly consenting adults.

According to a report by NDTV, the NIA is examining if the 90 inter-faith marriages in Kerala – besides the marriage between Hadiya and Shafin Jahan – were organised by groups preying on vulnerable Hindu women to recruit them as terrorists. The NIA had told the SC earlier that these inter-faith marriages were part of a design by global terror organisation Islamic State (IS) to recruit vulnerable Hindu women within its ranks and then radicalise them to spread terror.

NDTV quoted a senior NIA official as saying that in 23 of these 90 cases which were being examined, the investigators hoped to be able to link the individuals concerned “to the Popular Front of India, a radical Islamic outfit that has been under the scanner of security agencies after its members chopped off the hand of a professor in Kerala in 2010.” The attack was described as retaliation for a “blasphemous” question he had put to his students in a college.

The officer said over 60 PFI activists have already been questioned in this connection.

However, the NIA has maintained that it will need to go beyond establishing a link between PFI operatives and the inter-faith marriages. The agency will also need to find evidence that the conversion was taking place to train the Hindu woman (or man) for terror activities.

The counter-terror agency says it has recorded statement of three women who say they were lured to convert to Islam. The three include Athira alias Ayesha from Kasargod and Athira from Palakad. “We spoke to both Athiras and both have said they were lured,” a senior NIA officer said. However, there is no evidence yet of either of these women being radicalised and pushed into executing anti-national or terror activities nor is there any evidence yet to substantiate how exactly they were lured into converting to Islam.

NIA officers say they are probing the role played by Sainaba, president of PFI’s women’s wing, the National Women’s Front, in the suspected love jihad cases.

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