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IPOH, March 27 ― Kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi, who won a high-profile court battle against the unilateral conversion of her children to Islam, has been nominated for the US Department of State’s International Women of Courage award.
Indira will be honoured at a reception, held in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2018 and Women’s History Month, at the residence of United States Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdir in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
“I had known about this for a while, but I tried to keep it to myself. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling because it’s something I never expected,” she told Malay Mail today.
“This was never part of my agenda, because I only wanted to get my children back. But I’m excited and grateful to be honoured in this way.”
Indira, 43, said her family members ― including her two older children Tevi Darsiny, 20, and Karan Dinish, 19 ― would be accompanying her to the reception. Her youngest child Prasana Diksa, aged 10, remains with her ex-husband, whose whereabouts are unknown.
While excited by her nomination as Malaysia’s candidate for the International Women of Courage award, Indira has not lost sight of the ultimate goal driving her battle for her children over the past nine years.
“I hope this puts some pressure on the authorities to find Prasana,” Indira said.
“And I also hope that this encourages women in similar situations to keep going and never give up.”
The US nomination represents another notable success in Indira’s nine-year battle against the unilateral conversion of her children, as she struggles to recover Prasana Diksa from her ex-husband.
In January, the Federal Court nullified the conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam, which was done without her consent.
The landmark ruling also stated that only the civil courts have jurisdiction to decide on such matters.
On April 2, 2009, K. Pathmanathan―now known as Muhammad Riduan Abdullah ― covertly converted his three children to Islam without their knowledge and without Indira’s consent, before going to the Shariah court just a few days later to obtain custody rights for them.
Indira previously secured a mandamus order compelling then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to retrieve Prasana and return the child to her mother.
However, Khalid reportedly said police could not execute the order, citing the jurisdictional conflict between the civil courts and their Shariah counterparts ― which had issued an order in favour of Mohd Riduan.
But after January’s landmark decision, current Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said police will track down Prasana Diksa and Muhammad Riduan.