Friday, April 17, 2009

Anguished mom knocks on PM's door for answers

S Pathmawathy Apr 17, 09 2:09pm

Her three young children were forcefully converted to Islam by her estranged husband. And M Indira Ghandi is taking her plight straight to the doorstep of Sri Perdana.

Calling on newly minted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to explain the matter, the 35-year-old kindergarten teacher said: "He talks about an united Malaysia. But what does this mean when only the Muslims have rights." "I am not anti-Islam and I am not saying that they (Muslims) are doing wrong things but why do non-Muslims have to suffer like this?" she asked as tears welled up in her eyes.Indira's marriage is now is a limbo as her husband K Patmanathan, 40, had converted without her knowledge on March 11.

She claimed that her husband, who has since assumed the name Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, had also converted their children, aged one to 12, on April 12 without their presence and using only their birth certificates."He took my baby (their youngest child) from me and ran away... I have not seen her ever since and I don't know how she's doing," lamented Indira.

As for her marriage, the teacher, who also claimed to have been physically abused, said the couple were married for 16 years and had been facing problems for a long time. "It started so many years back that I can no longer keep track of when it started." "Recently he asked for a divorce and I thought to myself that since that was what he wanted I consented but he did not want to start the process and demanded that I do so. "So I went to a marriage tribunal and filed for counselling in Ipoh but he never attended any of the counselling sessions," she said.Indira claimed that after one particular explosive argument, which also involved her mother and sisters, her husband had fled with their youngest daughter Prasana Diksa."When we went to the police station and lodged a report, no immediate action was taken by the police although my baby was still very young and needed to be breast-fed," she said.

Since that incident, Indira has filed six police reports, with one alleging that she feared for her life because her husband had threatened her.Indira said the police managed to locate her husband later but only to discover that he had converted the children.'I don't know what to do'The couple's two other children Tevi Darsiny, 12 and Karan Dinesh, 11 are currently living with Indira, who has taken refuge with a relative fearing that Islamic officials would take the kids away."I was neither told nor asked about it (the conversion)... I don't know what to do," she lamented.According to Indira, her husband had called her last Wednesday and promised to return her youngest child."He asked me to come to the Islamic Department (Jais) in Ipoh and take my baby because he could not care for her but he didn't show up. "Instead there was a man waiting there to serve me papers from the Syariah Court granting custody of my other children to him," she said.However, she refused to accept the papers as she believed that Syariah laws had no jurisdiction over her.

As for her husband's conversion, Indira said he had spoken about his interest in Islam but she claimed this was related to monetary gains."I have no idea what his intentions are... but he mentioned once before that we will get RM5,000 each if we 'nikah' (marry according to Islamic rights) and money would also be given on a monthly basis to each of our children for education purposes."Over the past couple of days he keeps calling me and asks me to convert to Islam. He tells me that I should convert first and then we, as in the whole family, can opt out later back into Hinduism," she said, adding that she wanted to remain a Hindu.'I love my wife very much'Contacted later, her husband dismissed Indira's allegations as absurd, saying he converted because he was passionate about Islam which he had discovered during his business trips.

Denying that he had physically abused her, Mohd Ridzuan said: "I don't want to say anything but I love my wife very much... right now I only want her back."Asked why he had converted the children without informing his wife, he replied: "You see all the children must follow the father's religion no matter whether he is a Hindu, Christian or Muslim.""This is not a political issues, this is my family matter and I don't want to shame my wife," said the businessman who has filed for custody of the children with the Syariah Court.

Meanwhile, Indira has sought the help of several legal adviders, non-Muslim organisations and the public."This is not only my case, many people are suffering because of this. We are filing for the custody of my children because they don't want to go to their father, and they (the other party) are totally rejecting this."But the question is even if I can get back my children, will they be Hindu again? Why does it only take a day to convert my children but it is so difficult to return to their old religion?" she asked."Don't I have say in it, when I was the one who carried them for nine months... aren't they my children too?

So what is my right and my children's rights?"The government say this is a country where it is free to practice your own religion but what is the right of a non-Muslim in this situation?" she added.