By Inamul Haq
A new discourse has started in India after the BJP came into power. The Sangh Parivar organizations like the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena and so on started mobilising people towards communalization and it proved fruitful for them. The marginalised sections of the Indian society became victim of their hooliganism and the first incident happened in Una (Gujarat), where four Dalit youth were beaten publicly. On the other side, the lynching of Ikhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid met their ends at the hands of Gau Rakshaks. While coming to the main issue, the Sangh Parivar started religious conversions in various states of India and it was named with “Ghar Wapsi”. But, on the other side, if any one converts to other religion (especially Islam), it was known as “Love Jihad”. The main reason behind this terminology is that from 2006 onwards, a large section of people converted Islam and most of the conversions occurred in Kerala and Mangalore. Such conversion was unbearable for fanatic Hindus and quite often, they reacted, warned (mostly Girls) against 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.
Nadirakhatun depicts in her article, “Indian Muslims, Bollywood, and Neo-Nationalism” that Jodha-Akbar and Bajrangi Bhaijaan were considered in favour of love jihad, because 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).
So, what does “Love Jihad” actually mean?
Love jihad is also known as Romeo Jihad, which is defined as an activity under which young Muslims convert girls of other religions in the name of feigning love. In India, inter-caste or inter-religious love and marriages are seen as a crime and have to face challenges of various norms and customs.
In Kerala, Karnataka and Delhi, the voice against love jihad is on the peak and organizations like RSS, VHP, and ABVP are holding meetings, distributing pamphlets and even filing cases against it and holding the view that, it is a part of Islamist conspiracy and are blaming Islamic countries for funding it.
Historically, it was during the 1920’s that the followers of 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, where communal riots are frequent, it has been found that the basic spark for these riots are Hindu or Muslim girls, who have been abducted, harassed or either raped. Prominent examples are 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 events have happened that have changed the whole narratives of humanity. One story labelled women as a vulnerable body, which is incapable of knowing what is good or bad for her and also puts a question mark on her identity. This is the narrative of a 24 year old Akhila, who got impressed with the teachings of Islam. Akhila changed her name to Hadiya and made her ties to a Muslim boy , Shafin Jahan. The episode was given the name of love jihad by her father K.M. Ashokan who filed a petition in the Kerala High court. Hadiya was put under house arrest that curtailed not her freedom, but raised the question whether women still are slaves in modern India. On the other side of the coin, if a Muslim girl marries a Hindu boy, then it raises the same question why women issues are labelled as religious ones. Love jihad or honour killings both are against the wishes of a women. The other narrative that followed in Rajasthan on the same issue was not only an inhuman act, but it also predicted the Nazi Culture that is going to be established in the future. The victim Mohammad Afrazul, a Muslim labourer from Bengal was burnt alive over the conspiracy of love jihad. Both of these narratives depicted that secular India that was dreamed by Jawaharlal lal Nehru, awakened by Gandhi after 1915 and advocated by A. P. J Abdul Kalam Azad is laying the roots of communalism which, in turn, is leading the country towards fascism.
—The author is a PhD candidate at Central University, Gujarat. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org