Love Jihad-TRUTH OR MYTH

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The conflict between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent had begun with the Umayyad Caliphate in Sindh in 711 and continues till date. With each passing day the differences and hatred intensifies and gives rise to nasty ideas and hence situations through which they both try to undermine each other. The present-day conflicts stem from the ideologies of Hindutva versus Islamic Extremism. Since politics and religion go hand in hand, the former had had a large influence on the latter and the involvement has only resulted in severing the tension between the Hindu and the Muslim communities.

The introduction of the concept of Love Jihad can be marked as one such nasty idea which has spread like a wildfire in the recent years and turned into a situation of National concern. Love Jihad also known as Romeo Jihad is an alleged activity under which young Muslim Boys are said to have targeted young girls of the Non-Muslim communities for their conversion to Islam by feigning love. The process first came to limelight in the year 2009 when reports started pouring in from the areas of Kerala and Mangalore .Since then claims of such conversions have been made in other parts of the nation as well as beyond it. The issue has also gained wide-scale publicity in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014 having raised concerns among the Hindu, Sikh and Christian communities with the Muslims denying the allegations. The evidences regarding the issue are not strong and are mainly construed by stereotypical mindset.

India had had a long tradition of arranged marriages wherein the partner for a boy or a girl is selected by his/her parents; according to a year 2000 book 90% of the marriages around that time have been arranged within the same caste. A survey says that after the year 2000 there has been a considerable rise in the number of love marriages, however the inter-faith marriages have been highly controversial and traditionally discouraged. One of the prime reasons for this is the risk of marital conversions, as marriages in Islam requires both male and female to be Muslim by faith.

Apart from that, roots of Love Jihad can be traced back to the period of Partition of India in the year 1947.Foreign Policy correspondent Siddhartha Mahanta emphasizes on this point saying that the creation of two countries with different majority religions led to large-scale migration, with millions of people moving between the countries and rampant reports of sexual predation and forced conversions of women by men of both faiths. This tense history caused a lot of clashes between the faiths in the decades that followed causing hindrance to the inter-faith marriages.

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Also, Love Jihad is reported to have been the consequence of charm and emotional enticement which are the prime tools through which a Muslim boy fools a Hindu girl into marrying him. This whole activity is considered as a conspiracy theory, as an organized, funded behavior by the Hindutva inspired Indian politicians and population.

Dr. Charu Gupta, an Associate Professor at the University of Delhi finds this recent phenomenon of Love Jihad similar to a campaign in the 1920s in North India against alleged abductions. According to her, “Organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Prishad, Shri Ram Sena, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti have been holding meetings, distributing pamphlets and even filing court cases, declaring that the organisations, as a part of an Islamist conspiracy, has devised plans for compulsive and deceitful religious conversions by winning over young women” .She further says that such campaigns have Hindu patriarchal notions deeply entrenched in them.

In the year 2009 the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council reported about the conversion of around 4,500 girls in their state while the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that 30,000 girls were converted in Karnataka alone. Following such controversies, on June 25, 2014, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy informed the state legislature that 2667 young women were converted to Islam in the state since 2006, but he further stated that there was no evidence to prove whether they were forced.

The VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) back in 2009 showing their concern for women safety had started a specific Hindu helpline and claimed to have got 1500 calls in three months related to “Love Jihad”. The Kerala-based Shri Ram Sena group was not an inch behind in their effort and announced that they would launch a nationwide “Save our daughters, save India” campaign to combat “Love Jihad”.

Again in July 2010 the issue resurfaced itself with the Kerala chief minister V. S. Achuthanandan saying that this matrimonial conversion was a part of an effort to make Kerala a Muslim majority state. This statement invited trouble from the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party whose women’s wing called for an NIA investigation.

On 16th December, 2011 there was pandemonium in the legislative assembly with the ruling and opposition members fighting over Love Jihad. At the zero hour, a BJP member Mallika Prasad asserted that the problem was going unaddressed. “From January to November this year, 84 Hindu girls have been missing. Of these, 69 confessed they’d been lured by Muslim youths who professed love. The worrying factor is that some girls are pushed into the flesh trade,” she said. The response to this allegation was mixed with some asking for the government intervention while others said that any action would only disrupt communal harmony, as reported by the Times of India. In the same month RSS suggested that the police feared to interrogate with the Muslim youths and that the biggest cause for the spread of Love Jihad is the frequent use of cellphones by young Hindu girls.

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The issue of Love Jihad continued churning the minds of political leaders and people alike. A resurgence of the controversy began in 2014 with BJP Member of Parliament Yogi Adityanath saying “If they take one Hindu girl, we will take 100 Muslims girls”. He further said that, “The way Hindu girls are insulted, I don’t think a civilized society would accept it. One community is allowed to spread anarchy. If the government is not doing anything, then the Hindus will have to take matters into their own hands.” The MP is not new to controversy and is facing charges of inciting communal tension in his constituency Gorakhpur. Such views were supported by the conservative Hindu activists like the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who emphasized on the counseling of girls about values. Bhagwat said that the only way to “counter” ‘love jihad’ is by inculcating good ‘sanskars’ in girls by their parents which will save them from falling in the “trap” of love Jihad.

On the 13th of October 2014 it was reported that a “victim” of alleged gang rape and forced conversion in Meerut changed her statement saying that it was under her parent’s force that she gave the wrong statement and she had in fact eloped with the accused. She further said that Vineet Agarwal, a BJP functionary, had offered her family Rs 25,000 and had assured of more money in the future.

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The allegations have also touched Bollywood, with political leaders blaming superstars Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan for taking up the Love Jihad. According to a poster concerning Love Jihad the stars married and left their Hindu wives with children to take care of and that is how they are contributing for the cause. Such defaming allegations can be easily invalidated because both of their second wives are Hindu too. Moreover they both have time and again expressed their secular thoughts and support for the right to religion.

The students from all over India have actively protested against the activities of RSS, VHP, ABVP and other Hindutva-inspired parties/ organizations, they are also critical of their outrageous and defamatory remarks. According to an Indian Express report of 11.09.2014, to counter the protests of these so-called “saffron” organizations, student bodies like the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Student Islamic Organization have carried out campaigns in Uttar Pradesh and Aligarh respectively. While the former aimed at spreading the “real and pious” meaning of words love and jihad, the latter which has a strong presence in the AMU campus aimed towards spreading the message “bridge the gulf, bring the change”. The SIO has as a matter of fact collaborated with the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha — along with Vishwa Hindu Parishad to form a “shared forum” which would have units in all districts of western Uttar Pradesh to fight alleged conversions, abductions and mass rapes in the name of love jihad. This only shows their attempts at bringing peace and providing justice. The report further said that the forum has opened its first unit Meerut Bachao Manch under which the volunteers are to appeal for an immediate check on “love jihad” if so at all. Also, they plan to hold debates and seminars especially to aware girls of such atrocities.

The All India Student’s Association has compared the activities of RSS leaders to be similar to that of Adolf Hitler. One of their pamphlet dating 8th October 2014 says, “It was in Nazi Germany that Hitler sought to portray relationships between the ‘racially inferior’ Jewish youth and the ‘pure’ German woman as a conspiracy to break racial barriers and “subdue” Germany. That was in Germany under the throes of fascism. And now, in India, we are seeing the political force which is running an elected government presiding over a vicious campaign with obvious racist and fascist overtones. Under the garb of the so-called ‘love jihad’, the RSS-BJP-VHP-ABVP are seeking to criminalize consensual inter-religion relationships, specifically relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.” They say that such organizations aim towards spreading communal hatred in the name of woman’s safety.

According to a report in the Times of India dating the 6th of September 2014, when students of Patna’s AN college were asked about their views on Love Jihad their spontaneous answer was “It’s about this VHP-sponsored hate campaign to stop Hindus and Muslims from becoming friends. They call it love jihad”. Sanjay Kumar, a 20 year old commerce student felt that “the so-called ‘love jihad’ is something disgusting manufactured by a particular political nexus and it is a way of ensuring the domination of Brahmanical caste system”.

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Attempts to stop the use of cellphone among women to stop Love Jihad, to prevent them from wearing what they want and from speaking with whomever they want to, to stop rapes and molestation, isn’t it an attempt to stop them from leading a normal life, to proceed and progress? Such unnecessary moral policing has met widespread protests from the student bodies all over India. What had started as a kiss of love campaign in Kochi then spread to Mumbai, Calicut, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi. In Delhi the campaign was carried out especially by the students of DU and JNU. The movement aimed towards spreading the message of peace and solidarity but the sole act of kissing in public outraged and angered various religious and political groups like Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, SDPI, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal etc. in spite of the fact that both the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court have made it clear that kissing in public is not an obscene act and no criminal proceedings can be initiated, for kissing in public, through landmark judgments. Some of the political groups said that kissing or hugging in public for them is like “walking around naked”.

From 2009 to 2014 several official investigations have been carried out regarding the various allegations but no evidence has been discovered. In January 2012, Kerala police declared that Love Jihad was “a campaign with no substance”, bringing legal proceedings and “spreading religious hatred and false propaganda”. In September 2014, Uttar Pradesh police chief A.L. Banerjee stating that, “In most cases we found that a Hindu girl and Muslim boy were in love and had married against their parents’ will.” They reportedly indicated that “sporadic cases of trickery by unscrupulous men are not evidence of a broader conspiracy.”

I will not quote the words from Quran neither will I glorify Islam. If the teachings of Prophet Muhammad would have been followed, the 132 schoolchildren of Peshawar would have been alive. The prevailing agitation, the unrest in the Islamic countries would have stopped. Similarly our religious texts did not teach us to take revenge or to become atrocious and unreasonable in the name of religion. As Gandhi said “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”. Moreover, making religion a path to your political success is as much a crime as is killing people in the name of God (If September 11 attacks killed 2,996 people, the Babri Masjid demolition too caused approximately 2000 deaths).Amongst all this hullabaloo between the powerful it is we who are ignored, who suffer brutalities, shame and it is us who die, the innocent. Thus one can conclude with the saying, “Legitimate goals can never be achieved through illegitimate means”.