"We die a thousand deaths every day. No one will understand the pain we are going through," says Ashokan, father of Akhila aka Hadiya, the girl whose marriage after conversion to Islam was annulled by the High Court.
It has been four months since the court sent the girl home with her parents, but the distressed father and mother are yet to get a relief. Living under the media glare for a few days now, they have been facing a constant stream of visitors, activists and others who want to get in a word edgewise.
The issue is still under the consideration of the court, and they are pinning their hopes on the judicial system.
As he speaks to Asianet Newsable, his voice is high with emotion. This is probably the hundredth time he has had to lay bare his love for his daughter and the marriage that turned their lives upside down.
Countering those who have been faulting the court, he says: "People are speaking against the court for sending my child with me. This is not right. You are obliged to follow the laws here when you are living in India. I have complete faith in court.”
As he continued the talk the sorrow of the father turned into anger. His daughter is back home but the suffering of the parents' continues. He is also feeling bad that people are just trying to ignite the issue in the name of human rights rather than knowing the truth.
"I had produced documents to prove that those who converted her were planning to take her to Syria. The court was convinced and gave back my child to me. Those who oppose this order should move court rather than trying to malign me," says Ashokan.
Emphasisng his faith in the judiciary, Akhila's father said that those speaking against the court are concealing the truth. "Anyone can get the court order. Still, they are hiding the facts. The truth will come to light once the final verdict is out."
Stating the case of Nimisha aka Fathima, the girl who got married after conversion to Islam and is suspected to have joined ISIS, Ashokan said that the only one who suffered was the mother of the girl. Bindu, the mother of Nimisha, had approached court raising suspicions of ISIS links after her daughter got married to Bekson Vincent aka Isa, a Muslim. Isa had converted to Islam from Christianity along with his brother.
However, the court allowed Nimisha to go with her husband citing fundamental rights, and it is suspected that the couple went to Afghanistan to join the ISIS. The only news that Bindu has is that her daughter gave birth to a child. "She again approached the court seeking help to bring her daughter back. Did anyone even listen to her pleas?" asks Ashokan, clearly choking on emotion.
To those protesting his decision to keep his daughter at home, he says: “Those voicing and demanding justice in the name of human rights and fundamental rights have nothing to lose. It is only the parents who are suffering, and no one wants to speak about that.”
Pointing out that he is not a narrow-minded person, as pictured by others, Ashokan clarified that he has no issues with her choice of faith. "I knew that my daughter has chosen a dangerous path and that why I interfered. This is not about conversion. She is free to choose whatever faith she believes in. But I understood that she has chosen it for the wrong reasons. That is when I filed a Habeas corpus petition with the High Court," Ashokan said.
Sainaba, a member of the Popular Front of India, got her married to Shafin Jahan, while the case was still under court's consideration. The High Court was convinced about the malicious intent and gave the verdict in Ashokan’s favour.
"No one will understand the pain we are going through. I have served the Army for almost 20 years, and that is the only reason why I am still alive and have not committed suicide. We are waiting for the NIA to submit the report on October 3. Let the final verdict be out," Ashokan said.