Thiruvananthapuram: Akhila Ashokan aka Hadiya's father KM Ashokan joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last Sunday.  Ashokan, after joining the BJP, said to a group of media persons that the BJP was the only party that protected the belief of Hindus.

Ashokan extended his support to the party's ongoing protest over the Sabarimala issue. BJP general secretary B Gopalakrishnan granted Ashokan membership to the party. Over 50 other people joined the BJP along with Ashokan the same day. Ashokan said that he had joined the BJP three years ago but received official membership on Sunday. 

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Ashokan used to work with the Communist Party of India (Marxist [CPI(M)]. When asked about his turn from the left wing to the BJP, he said that the communist party was of late indulging in "dirty vote-bank politics", so he decided to leave the party.

Ashokan's daughter Akhila, 26, converted to Islam while she was pursuing bachelor’s degree at Sivaraj Homoeopathic Medical College in Salem, Tamil Nadu. Akhila adopted the name Hadiya in July 2016 and got married to a Muslim youth named Shafin Jahan. 

Ashokan disapproved of the marriage and approached the Kerala high court, claiming that his daughter was forcibly converted by groups with links to terrorist outfits.

Later in May 2017, the high court invalidated their marriage and sent back Hadiya to her father's place. Then the Supreme Court in March 2018 overruled the high court verdict and allowed her to go with her husband.

A three-judge bench, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, however, allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue its investigation into the case. The NIA, meanwhile, looked in to the possibility of Hadiya's forced conversion to Islam. The NIA’s probe, on the directive from the apex court, began in August last year and ended after the court allowed Hadiya to continue to live with her husband.

Religious conversions are not new to Kerala, which has always embraced the right to religion guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 25. However, conversions became a contentious issue in Kerala due to cases of cheating wherein the religion of the Muslim partner was not revealed to the non-Muslim partner until it was too late for the latter. The high court and Supreme Court needed to intervene where the rights of individuals were subtly or evidently infringed upon in cases of love jihad (a ploy to increase the population of the Islamic community through conversion of the non-Muslim bride necessitated by nikah) and forced conversions. Christians as much as Hindus have been vocal against this social phenomenon in Kerala.