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There is no evidence suggesting women – and men – were being forced to marry and convert to Islamic faith, found the National Investigation Agency (NIA) while investigating inter-faith marriages in Kerala, the Hindustan Times reported.

While there may have been attempts made to facilitate conversions, the NIA has not recovered any evidence of a larger criminal design that could lead to prosecution of these cases, said the report quoting officials.

“The NIA is not supposed to file any further report in this regard in the Supreme Court. As far as the NIA is concerned, the matter stands closed as the agency has not found any evidence to suggest that in any of these cases either the man or the woman was coerced to convert,” the official said to Hindustan Times.

He also stated that they had uncovered three cases of failed conversion attempts during the course of their investigation.

The agency had looked into 11 inter-faith marriages from a list of 89 marriages that were already before law enforcement authorities, usually because of complaints by parents, and which were referred to the federal anti-terrorism agency by the Kerala police.

Among the 11 cases examined by the NIA, there were at least four cases of interfaith marriages where Hindu men embraced Islam or where efforts were made to convert them to Islam. In the rest of the cases examined by NIA, Hindu women married Muslim men.

“The NIA probe found that in at least three cases, efforts at conversion failed,” said a second NIA official who asked not to be named.

The examination was part of the enquiry ordered by the Supreme Court in the context of the Hadiya case into cases of ‘love jihad’ or forceful conversion of Hindu men and women into Islam.

Hadiya, then 24, had converted to Islam and later married a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan. She said that she did both of these things of her own free will, but her father filed a case against Jahan accusing him of brainwashing and coercing her to convert. In May 2017, the Kerala high court annulled the marriage of the couple and placed Hadiya in the ‘custody’ of her parents. In March 2018, the Supreme Court had overturned the high court order and restored Hadiya’s marriage with Shafin Jahan, stating that an adult woman has the freedom to make her own marital choices and the courts cannot intervene in a consensual marriage.

“At least one among the 11 marriages under examination was purely a matter of relationship gone sour. In most of the other cases we found that a similar set of people and organisations associated with Popular Front of India (PFI) were involved in helping either the man or the woman involved in a relationship to convert to Islam,” the official told Hindustan Times.

“But we didn’t find any prosecutable evidence to bring formal charges against these persons (of PFI) under any of the scheduled offences of the NIA, like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” added the official.

PFI’s legal advisor KP Muhammer Shareef, talking to Hindustan Times, said that the concept of ‘love jihad’ was a construction by right-wing forces to specifically target the Muslim community. “Umpteen investigations and enquiries conducted by various agencies have now found the allegation of love jihad is obnoxious, fictitious and without any scintilla of evidence,” said Shareef.

The NIA official however warned against a clean chit to PFI. “There are separate criminal cases of serious charges of murder going on against the alleged cadres of PFI. Those matters are being dealt (with) separately,” he said.

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