From a mere propaganda tool, the fiction about ‘love jihad’ has emerged as a potent, dangerous weapon in the hands of fanatics in India
By Ram Puniyani
The country is yet to recover from the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar violence. This violence was engineered over a period of time in western Uttar Pradesh where the Jats and Muslims had thick social interaction despite belonging to different economic strata. Communal violence has been instigated, engineered earlier on various issues like cow slaughter, Babri Masjid demolition, ‘sexual assault on ‘our women’ amongst others. The primary weapon used to communalize this region was the community honor. ‘Muslim youth teasing and luring Hindu girls’ was made the central part of propaganda.
While other factors like the role of Sangh Parivar components in uploading the video clip, in mobilizing the Hindus in the name of “Bahu-Beti Bachao” (Save daughter and daughter-inlaw) have been discussed, one needs also to look at the way this ‘saving our daughters’, Love Jihad, from the Muslims had been operated in the area.
For couple of years the deliberate teasing of the girls was planned in the area in and around Muzaffarnagar. Rumors abounded and the word ‘Love Jihad’ was propagated. (Evil stalks the land–Anhad Report on Muzaffanagar violence).
The falsehood of Muslim boy talking to Hindu girls to lure them to marry and so to convert to Islam was heavily publicized. The major concoction around which the riot was engineered also related to the Hindu girl being teased by Muslim boys.
The word ‘love jihad’ which played a major role in mobilizing the Hindu community for violence, has a strange history. As such the two components of this word, Love Jihad, who so ever manufactured it, have a very different meaning. Since 9/11, the word Jihad has been employed in the popular media and has also become part of the ‘social common sense’.
Contrary to the meaning of the word Jihad in Quran, which means ‘striving for something’ it has come to be projected as the killing of non-Muslims. The word Love Jihad must be the creation of an evil genius and it has come to be used to further demonize the Muslim community.
According to this propaganda, some Muslim organizations are funding Muslim youth to lure non-Muslim girls to marry them and to increase the Muslim population. These youth are given money to buy motorbike, mobile etc., and lure the non-Muslim girls!
While doing Google search, if you type, ‘why Hindu Girls are’, the other sentence which pops up on the search engine is ‘attracted to Muslim boys’! Lately in Maharashtra, a group “Hindu Rakshak Samiti” has been claiming to save Hindu religion by breaking up the Hindu Muslim couples, if the girl happens to be a Hindu girl. Not that there are too many such couples, just a suspicion and these self-appointed guardians of Hinduism pounce on the boy. A booklet in Marathi on Love Jihad shows a Muslim boy riding the motor bike, with Hindu girl riding pillion. The word has been so popularized that even a Christian group in Kerala allied with the VHP to check this non-existent phenomenon.
In India the word has been extensively used in coastal Karnataka, Mangalore, and in parts of Kerala. It was Sri Ram Sene founded by RSS-trained Pramod Mutalik, which started attack on Hinbeendu girl-Muslim boy couples. The marriages of such combinations started to be looked at with suspicion and if parents were opposed to the marriage, Sri Ram Sene would help to take the matter even to the court.
The pretext was that the girl has been forced to marry the Muslim boy. Funnily in the case of Sijalraj and Azghar the judge of Karnataka High Court, went on to give the ruling, that the “facts of (Love Jihad) had national ramifications… concern security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women,”!
So the court ordered the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police to hold a thorough investigation into the ‘love jihad’ phenomenon. Pending that, the girl was asked to stay with her parents. The case was that of a simple Hindu Muslim marriage and the girl stood to her version and refused to bow to the social pressures. The police investigation showed that the ‘Love Jihad’ is all fiction with no substance whatsoever.
In a similar case earlier the Kerala High court while hearing the appeal from two parents passed a similar order. Two Hindu girls had eloped and got converted to Islam and planned to get married. Kerala court also ordered the police authorities to investigate this phenomenon. The police investigation again showed that there is no such phenomenon as Love Jihad. The organizational promotion of such marriages is a hoax but has become part of social understanding.
Shri Ram Sene propaganda claimed that over 4,000 Hindu girls have been lured into conversions. This concoction was aggressively put across through various mechanisms. This laughable figment of imagination spread like wild fire and frightened the parents. The trajectory of many of these girls who express their love for the boy and voluntary conversion, changes many a times after they are forced to stay with their parents. Under a sort of emotional blackmail, some girls give in and later claim that they were brain-washed and what not.
We have witnessed such acts in the form of propaganda in Gujarat in the wake of the 2002 pogrom, that ‘Muslim boys are luring Adivasi girls’. There Babu Bajarangi, who was also a major participant in the 2002 carnage and is currently in jail undergoing life imprisonment, formed a goon-gang.
This gang attacked couples and forced them to separate if they belonged to different religions. All this is presented as defense of religion! At another level, inter-caste, inter-religious marriages are a normal natural part of a plural society.
With the rise of the communal politics, these inter-religious marriages are being opposed very dangerously. We have the case of Rizwan Ur Rehman married to Priyanka Todi, daughter of an affluent and powerful business magnate of Kolkata. She was forced to turn around under emotional blackmail from parents and relatives. The details were not known, what is known is that later Rizwan Ur Rehman was forced to commit suicide. In all such cases the role of police, state machinery, has been totally against the spirit and provisions of law, the protectors of law acting to support the things totally against the law.
Such campaigns against inter-religion, inter-caste marriages are not only against the spirit of national integration, they also aim to control the lives of girls in the patriarchal mode. In addition the bogey against a minority is whipped up to aid the divisive politics. It is a double bonus for divisive politics.
Since in patriarchal norms women are regarded as property of man and are made to live under the control structure defined by men, such an issue rouses high emotions. The agenda of communal politics targets minorities, Muslims at one level and promotes patriarchal norms at another.
Over a period of time, from being just a mechanism to control the lives of Hindu girls, a tool to ensure that girls don’t have the right to choose their own life partners, this phrase has been used to instigate violence as witnessed in Muzaffarnagar. Most of the pretexts of communal violence are cooked up, gradually manufactured.
This Love Jihad propaganda has by now become a dangerous weapon. On one hand, it demonizes the Muslim youth in the negative light and on the other it aims to curb the freedom of women. The politics in the name of religion, the politics of Sangh Parivar here in India or that of Taliban’s in Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalists, or even Christian fundamentalists all operate at the same wavelength as far as crushing the rights of women is concerned.
In line with this starting from Sri Ram Sene to Babu Bajrangi to those orchestrating violence in Muzzafarnager, they all operate on the premise that women are the property of men and their lives have to be controlled.
The truth is not the issue here; the myth has been drilled into the thinking of society. This dangerous propaganda has a double-edged nature, which is something we need to register and combat. This phrase has tragically become a powerful concoction in the hands of communal forces.