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Love Jihad: A New War?

A new discourse started in the democratic and secular country of India, after BJP came to power in 2014. The Sangh Parivar organizations like RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena and so on started mobilising the people towards communalization and it proved fruitful for them. The marginalised sections of the Indian society became victims of their hooliganism and the first event happened in Una (Gujarat), where four Dalit youths were beaten mercilessly in the name of cow protection. Gau Rakshaks disguised in the form of crowds were responsible for lynching of Ikhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid.

While coming to the main issue, the Sangh parivar started religious conversion in various states of India and it was named “Ghar Wapsi”. On the other side, if any one converts to other religion (particularly, Islam) it was termed as “Love Jihad”. The main reason behind this terminology is that from 2006 onwards, many people converted into Islam and most of the conversion occurred in state of Kerala and Mangalore in Karnataka. Such conversion was unbearable for fanatic Hindus and quite often, they reacted, warned (mostly girls) against the conversion and labelled it as an act of terrorism.

It is also remarkable that Indian Bollywood was also accused for encouraging love jihad by right wing Hindus. Nadira Khatun depicts in her article “Indian Muslims, Bollywood, and Neo-Nationalism” that Jodha-Akbar and Bajrangi Bhaijaan were considered in favour of love jihad, since VHP had circulated an audio tape before the festival of Garba to boycott the movie directed by Kabir Khan in which Salman khan (Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi) and Kareena (Rasika) subvert the norms and values of Indian Culture (2016). A question arises in a common mind, what is love jihad? Love jihad, also known as Romeo Jihad, is defined as an activity under which young Muslims convert girls of other religions on the name of feigning love. In India, inter-caste or inter-religious love and marriages are seen as crime and had to face challenges of various norms and customs. Besides, there remains a constant threat to security of life and it is evident that Indian society had witnessed inhuman action in the name of love jihad.

In Kerala, Karnataka and Delhi, the voice against love jihad rose to the peak and organizations like RSS, VHP, Hindu Jan Jagruthi Samiti and ABVP are holding meetings, distributing pamphlets and even filing cases against such cases and propagating the view that the same is a part of Islamist conspiracy and blaming the Islamic countries for funding it.

Historically, it was in 1920s that the followers of the Arya Samaj launched two movements in the India known as Shuddhi (Purification) and Sangathan (defence of Hindu interests) against the conversion of Hindus towards Islam. In India, communal riots are a natural process and it has been found that the spark for these riots are an incident of Hindu or Muslim girl, who has been abducted, harassed or raped. The prominent example is Muzaffarnagar riots, Shamili riots in UP as well as Silchar riots in Assam. Charu Gupta (Professor in History, Delhi University) in her article “Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions” argues that the term love jihad is nothing, just a myth. It is a way to control women and to build up the bogeyman of evil Muslims.

In contemporary India, two such events have occurred that have changed the whole narratives of women rights. In the first case, a 24 year old girl named Akhila got impressed with the teachings of Islam and got her name changed to Hadiya and got married to a Muslim boy, namely Shafin Jahan. This event was given the name of love jihad by her father K.M. Ashokan who filed a petition in the Kerala High Court. Eventually, Hadiya was put under house arrest, which not just curtailed her freedom but also raised a question on whether women are still slaves in modern India. The narrative of Hadiya indicates the belief that labelled women as vulnerable body, which is incapable of knowing what is good or bad for her, besides putting a question mark on her identity. On the other side of the coin, if a Muslim girl marries a Hindu boy, then the same question is raised and women rights related issue get labelled as religious issue. Love jihad or honour killings both are against the wish and choice of a women.

The second event took place in Rajasthan where the victim, named Mohammad Afrazul, a Muslim labour from West Bengal was burnt alive over the conspiracy of love jihad. This results in the other narrative that the issue of love jihad is not only an inhuman act but it also suggest that the Nazi Culture is emerging in future. Both the cases of Hadiya and Mohammad Afrazul depict that the secular India which was dreamt by Jawaharlal Nehru, awakened by Gandhi after 1915 and advocated by A. P. J Abdul Kalam Azad is laying the roots of communalism and pushing the country towards fascism.

The Author: Inamul Haq is a  Ph.D. Research Scholar, Centre for Gandhian Thought & Peace Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Email: mantooinam72@gmail.com.

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