(This is the text of the open letter from leading women’s studies scholar and renowned feminist intellectual, Prof. Samita Sen, to the Chief Minister of Kerala on the Hadiya case)
The Hon’ble Chief Minister
Please Help Hadiya
It is a great disappointment to the wider community of left-inclined activists that a LDF government in Kerala has been so unsympathetic and insensitive to Hadiya’s tribulations. It is of course not within the purview of the government that the judiciary appears to have abandoned constitutional principles in favour of patriarchal and communal rhetoric. However, the administration has the means—through the Women’s Commission, for instance‑ to ensure Hadiya’s well-being and to allow her to speak.
As a historian I have read about (and even written about) romance conversions at the turn of the twentieth century and the communal politics of abductions in Bengal in the 1920s and 30s. It is inestimably shocking to see the same patterns repeat themselves a century later. And one can only be dumbfounded that an LDF government is lending itself to a communal polarization on the bodies of women. An adult woman needs nobody’s custody, not even her father’s. The constitution of India allows her to choose her marriage partner. An adult woman has the right of the choice of religion, a choice not subject to the discipline of the community she exits. To say anything else is to abandon the basic foundations of the rights of citizens on which democracy rests.
The SC has already made a few statements in the right direction. We can only hope that this will lead it to the only logical and legal path possible under the circumstances, which is to uphold the right of a citizen of India to her own decision in pursuing her religion and undertaking a marriage contract. It is incumbent on the LDF government, we believe, to support this decision and not to detract from this by spurious arguments about family and community.
We demand that Hadiya be restored the dignity of an adult and be allowed to speak.