Two policemen stood guard at the porch of this three-room, weather-beaten house at T V Puram village in Kerala’s Kottayam district. The name plate read “Devi Kripa (grace of the Goddess)”. The daughter of this house, Akhila alias Hadiya, is now at her college in Salem to complete her internship in homoeopathy medicine as per a Supreme Court order. Her father K M Ashokan did not want to meet visitors at the house and took them to a neighbour’s residence.
Taking a drag on a cigarette, Ashokan said, “I am trying to find relief in puffs and pegs, but what about my wife Ponnamma? She left in the morning saying she had to buy provisions. But I know she must be crying at the Shiva temple at Vaikkom. What else can she do?’’ said Ashokan, who claims he is an atheist.
Ashokan has been waging a legal battle to get back his daughter, who converted to Islam and married Shefin Jahan, a Muslim. The Kerala High Court annulled the marriage in May, sent her to her parents and put her under surveillance. “I will continue my fight to get her back as Akhila, not Hadiya,” said Ashokan.
“At the time of our marriage, we decided that we will have one child, whether it is a boy or girl. Our dream was to dedicate our life and resources to that child. So, we did everything for her good. How I can leave this fight halfway? I won’t accept that she is married to a terrorist like Shefin Jahan. I am ready to spend my life’s savings to get her back,’’ said Ashokan, 57, who retired from Army as a driver.
On Monday, when the Supreme Court ordered that Hadiya be sent to her college, she did not have enough clothes with her. Ashokan said he gave her daughter Rs 6,000 to buy clothes.
Ponnamma walked in and said she hadn’t slept well since May 24, when the high court granted them Akhila’s custody. “I would wake up several times to see whether she was fine or not. I was worried that she might take some extreme step.”
“For the past two years, I have been praying to the Lord to give us our daughter back. She had even tried to persuade me to embrace Islam. She used to tell me, ‘Mother, you will go to hell since you are believing in many gods’. She was made to believe that becoming a Muslim is a way to become rich,’’ said Ponnamma.
Ponnamma said those who converted Akhila believe they have done a pious act. “Is taking away our only daughter a pious act? Which God would attest such a cruelty? Will the Muslims allow it if a girl from their community is converted to Hinduism?’’
She added, “After the hc nullified her marriage, she developed a hatred towards us. She would be warm towards the policewomen, but she would not even greet us. All these changes happened only because she was brainwashed by forces behind the conversion. We did not torture her. Instead, it was she who manhandled us.”
Ashokan said, “She is my only daughter, I will fight to the end. I can’t accept that my daughter has gone with a terrorist.’’