Love Jihad Lab: Isloate, Terrorise, Ghettoise Muslims

Love jihad was always a fringe phenomenon for hardline Hindutva. It was in the shadows. Since 2014, it has become mainstream, like mob-lynching. And in the current scenario, amazingly, it is becoming law.

The love jihad law, or the politics behind the law, is yet again brazenly transparent. The central theme and the hyperbolic pitch are to corner, isolate, ghettoise and terrorise the Muslim community, yet again, polarize the bitter ground reality across the caste system in the Hindi heartland and the cowbell derived from the basic principles of dominant Hindutva. It is also to divert public attention from basic issues on the ground: mass unemployment, economic collapse across the organized and unorganized sectors, the massive farmers’ struggle at the various borders of the national capital, and that there is no clear guarantee when the vaccine against the deadly virus will reach India effectively, even while it is being administered in millions across the UK and USA.

Besides, there is another favorite diversionary tactic of the BJP, which also consolidates its fringe and mainstream support base: First, it was the Ram Janmabhoomi temple complex in Ajodhya. Now, it is the mythical new Parliament complex of ‘New India’: you can call it the mythical Hindu rashtra, a work in progress under the patron saints positioned strategically in the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.

Despite the love jihad law being pushed in some BJP-ruled states, the laboratory is yet again Uttar Pradesh, which has brought in BJP overwhelming at the hustings with a radical Hindutva icon who celebrates authoritarian actions as a virtue, at the helm. UP is also the state which provides the largest number of Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha polls.

ALSO READ: ‘After Love Jihad, BJP Will Rake Up Uniform Code’

Of late, it has moved away from the ‘social engineering’ of the post-Mandal wave, with the rise of the OBCs and the minorities as a consolidated vote bank, and has decisively turned towards the heady concoction of united Hindutva. The repeated victory of Narendra Modi from a holy place like Varanasi, revered by Hindus across India, is more than symbolic.

Indeed, the caste polarization of the post-Mandal era, in UP, for instance, where Dalits would align with the Savarnas and the upper castes, but refuse to have alliances with the powerful section of the OBCs, like the Yadavs, is all but over. Landed Yadavs, also politically powerful, were always seen as oppressors in UP by the Dalits, even while Brahmins chose to align with the power apparatus, from the Congress, to BSP, to BJP.

Now, with a Thakur calling the shots, and calling it loud and clear across the layers of the power structure, a section of the Brahmins, deprived of power, seems to be in a dilemma. So are the others in the other backward castes.

In that sense, it is quite possible, that the Hindutva agenda is yet again working on its dream sequence by invoking the sectarian and vicious politics of love jihad. The dream sequence rests on the principle that all Hindus, across the caste spectrum, or most of them, would unite under the dominant and polarizing umbrella of Hindutva, whereas the ‘internal enemy number one’, as traditional RSS documents would tell us, should be totally isolated.

Thereby, it serves two purposes: one, the huge population of Muslims cannot forge an alliance with other secular groups among the Hindu communities, and thereby constitute a formidable electoral base. And, second, by uniting most Hindu communities under one umbrella, the so-called ‘internal enemy number one’ and its vote base is rendered vulnerable, almost ineffective.

In other words, this is but the first step towards the consolidation of a strategic Hindu rashtra, very much like using Adivasis against the minorities to polarize and consolidate in states lie Gujarat and Jharkhand, and thereby compel the Adivasis, who are outside the caste system of Hinduism, to join the Hindu varna vyavastha, with all its social, cultural and hegemonic trappings.

This new brand of ‘social engineering’ was first experimented by the BJP in Western UP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And what was the heady and hallucinatory slogan used to achieve this successful polarization: yes, love jihad.

The fertile and prosperous green revolution belt of Western UP with its flowing mustard flowers, canal systems, sprawling sugar cane farms, sugar mills, and flourishing mandis, as in Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut, has always been a laid back zone of communal harmony and peace, with landed farmers across the kaleidoscope of religion prospering in the region. The landless Dalits or the poor Muslims and extremely backward castes were surely not so rich, but they were not starving either, or migrating en masse, as from Eastern UP or parts of Bihar.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Law Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

Indeed, Dalits even own land in rural areas near Saharanpur, and the emergence of the confident mass of educated, young, modern and confident Dalits in the form of the Bhim Army, led by Chandraskhekar Azad, is a clear pointer about the changing political and social dynamics in Western UP. 

The BJP never really had any base in this region, barring among the traders and shopkeepers, which was politically under the shadow of the late Chaudhury Charan Singh, and his sons, who were the leaders of the dominant Jat community, almost always in alliance with Muslim farmers and other communities. There were no communal fissures, and no animosity against the Muslims, even while sections of Dalits chose to vote for Mayawati’s BSP. This was compulsively and effectively shattered by the violent politics of love jihad by the BJP and its rabble rousers in Western UP in 2014.

Indeed, it was fake, mostly based on rumours, with no evidence on the ground. Muslim boys were not running away with Hindu girls. It was all stage-managed propaganda, propagated by mouth and social media like whatsapp, with fake identities and fake stories, backed by huge Mahapanchayats of the BJP where the Muslims were frontally attacked. The laid-back green expanse had suddenly turned bitter and vicious, and it was yet again hate politics which became the dominant narrative in this peaceful zone.

A lot of violence, bloodshed and dead bodies later, around 60,000-plus Muslims were displaced from their traditional habitats. They took shelter in refugee camps, in collective phobia. Many of them just could not understand what hit them. Later, journalists and fact-finding teams, including women’s groups, also found scores of Muslim women raped. It was terrible and heart-breaking.

Post-2014, the wounds seem to be healing, and the polarization has not sustained. Fake news has dismantled again and again. The politics of hate and violence, camouflaged under the propaganda of love jihad, seems to have subsided. The lost era of peaceful coexistence and harmony seemed to be gradually returning. And love jihad seems as much a figment of imagination, as the ‘acche din’ promised by Modi before 2014.

The united kisan movement in Western UP, post lockdown, has also played a major role in bridging the social fissures. The movement is growing stronger against the three central farm bills, and most factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union has united in the struggle. Love jihad is not working here on the ground.

Indeed, in the three recent cases in UP, reportedly triggered by Bajrang Dal vigilantes, with the administration predictably following a set pattern, the love jihad propaganda has fallen flat. In contrast, love seems to have won over hate again, despite the angst, the suffering, and the violence, psychological and physical. Indeed, even parents have stood up for the idea of love, and have debunked the claim of love jihad.

Surely, India, and its cowbelt power apparatus, might find it a lucrative enterprise to float such divisive and discriminatory concepts, once seen in Europe when the Nazis came in with Jews targeted in all walks of life. However, the younger generations are not going to buy it anymore. Hopefully so.

Surely, they would want love, and an eternally happy life in togetherness. And they must get it. That will be a true victory of the purity and endurance of love, over the politics of hate.

The Worsening Situation Amid Covid-19

‘After Love Jihad, BJP Will Rake Up Uniform Civil Code’

Fawaz Aftab, 21, a Law student from Delhi, says BJP leaders should focus on the worsening situation amid Covid-19, instead of targeting Muslims. Aftab prays for India to remain a pluralistic society

If you think ‘Love Jihad’ is the end of it – by which I mean the state meddling into citizens’ private affairs – it will not be. It is just the beginning. This year people have already seen so much hardships due to the pandemic yet our authorities are more focussed on issues related to a particular community, Muslims.

First, there was no proper dialogue before imposition of CAA- NRC, then northeast Delhi faced communal violence, later the communalisation of Covid-19 where the whole Tableegi Jamat issue was tarred, then the Ram Janma Bhoomi shilanyas (which could have been handled a little more gracefully), and now the Love Jihad law. A person who follows news in depth knows what will be their next stop: Uniform Civil Code.

Many people feel that now inter-faith relationships and marriages will raise untoward suspicion because of the new law. However, as a law student I feel that people shouldn’t give in to fear easily. The Special Marriage Act (1954) is still valid and people can still go for inter-faith marriages. The law has been brought in to curb forced conversions, be they done by a person of any religion. However, when the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath or other BJP leaders and even the media talk about it, they use the term ‘Love Jihad’ as if it is meant to put a complete stop to inter-faith relationships.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

It is perhaps easier to distract people from mainstream issues by bringing issues of lesser importance to the surface. I wish the government initiated dialogues on topics it thinks deserve importance before bringing a law for it. And I also wish that the people didn’t react emotionally to any news that the media presents, and did some groundwork on their own.

Aftab would want India to remain a pluralistic society

One of the main problems I have with this law is the point that anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. I feel it is a direct violation of fundamental rights under Article 21. Love, marriage and practicing of one’s faith are personal matters and the government shouldn’t get involved in it I feel, at least in the beginning. If the marriages run into problems, then the government can take cognizance of the matter.

The term ‘ Love Jihad’ first started coming to light around 2009-10, but the UPA government took it for what it was, an exception. I feel the current government takes offence even where none is intended. Prior to 2014, Hindus and Muslims and people of all other faiths mostly identified as Indians first, but now I can see traces of hatred and an unwillingness to know about and understand different faiths.

ALSO READ: ‘When Will The Hounding Of Muslims Stop?’

I hope we still continue to hold on tightly to the idea of a pluralistic India and no matter how much the media or our politicians try to divide us, we don’t give in to hatred; we don’t do any such thing that allows hatred to become mainstream. In the long run we can only control how we behave and I on my part will keep contributing my love and understanding to my fellow countrymen and women.

Millions of Livelihoods at Stake Amid Covid-19

‘CAA, Riots, Love Jihad… Where Will The Hounding Stop?’

Farheen Zaidi, 22, a student of Fine Arts in Delhi, says with millions of livelihoods at stake amid Covid-19, our leaders should redefine their priorities, and not constantly target one community

Where do I even begin? I don’t understand what is going on in our country for the past few years. First, the stalemate over Citizenship Amendment Act- and NRC, then the communal violence in Northeast Delhi and now a law against so called ‘love jihad’, which I do not even think, exists…

Where will this concerted and coordinated effort to target Muslims stop? Till a few years ago, the Hindu-Muslim rivalry was a one-off thing and people used to take extreme steps in the heat of the moment. But now it’s like this rivalry recurring periodically. There’s a constant undercurrent of hatred running in India these days.

Even the November 11 High Court order that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Ji had cited to justify ‘love jihad’ law earlier, has now been overturned. The HC now says that it was ‘bad law’ and two consenting adults have the freedom to choose the way they want to conduct their lives. Love is a matter of the heart, how can it be governed by law?

I wonder if the people who talk about ‘love jihad’ even understand the meaning of love. It takes so much for people to be able to find another person who understands them well and how can they be judged by people who don’t even know them? If conversion has been done forcibly, be they of any religion, then the government can step in, but one can’t assume that people will behave a certain way and take pre-emptive measures.

ALSO READ: ‘Love Jihad Law Kills Beti Bachao Spirit’

Shouldn’t the government be worrying about and working upon handling the pandemic, or soon there will be no people left to fall in love with each other or marry. So many people have lost their jobs and livelihood because of the pandemic, and I feel the government should really give its priorities a rethink.

Farheen believes addressing loss of livelihoods amid Covid-19 must be a priority for leaders

This is not the time for people to feel hatred for each other. We all need each other to see ourselves through the coronavirus crisis. Our faiths should help us become better people and help each other and we need to fight coronavirus together. I sometimes feel sad about how we have changed as a country. When I was in school a few years ago, we had many friends from other faiths, but now just a few years later when I am still in college, our social circle has shrunk considerably. There is this whole ‘Hindu-Muslim’ talk going on always.

Sometimes I feel if the matter of ‘love jihad’ is so serious why doesn’t Modiji talk about it in his ‘Man Ki Baat’? He could give us examples when cases of people marrying someone just for the sake of converting them has come to light and talk about those cases from all angles. That could be the beginning of a serious dialogue on the topic, but in my life I have personally seen no such incident and feel it is a just a bogeyman of an issue.

ALSO READ: ‘Love And Jihad Don’t Go Hand In Hand’

And if the law is brought in, the poor of the poorest will suffer; the rich will take to legal recourse. I hope better sense prevails and more thought is given to social harmony. When people are secure in their own faiths and identities they don’t even try to convert people to their ideas, forget changing their religion.

Whatever decision Yogi Ji and his counterpart in Bihar, Nitish Kumar Ji take in this matter will have far reaching implications for the rest of the country. I am waiting to see what Nitish Ji has to say in this matter as the Chief Minister of a state where there is a large Muslim population.

‘Love Jihad Law Kills Beti Bachao, Beti Padaho Spirit’

Pooja Behl feels the proposed ‘Love Jihad’ law by the UP Govt is perhaps an attempt to disintegrate an inter-faith, pluralistic society and will create more trouble than solutions

I am a 23-year-old professional from Lucknow working in the finance sector and I am in a relationship with a person who practises a different faith than mine. We plan to marry in a couple of years from now, when we have both achieved a certain level of financial stability, independently. Of late, I have been reading and hearing a lot about ‘love jihad’ as well as a proposed law to discourage it.

Willy-nilly, this law amounts to: Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, lekin beti ke decision pe fir bharosa mat karo (Use slogans like ‘save the daughter, educate the daughter’, then do not allow her to take her life decisions, or impose your worldview on her). Apparently, this is the signal being sent by the government in Uttar Pradesh.

If you educate your daughter, understand that she is going to have a mind of her own, and definitely a heart of her own too. Of course, one does take family into consideration, but these are family matters that should be sorted within the family as to who a person wants to marry. The courts/government shouldn’t interfere into it.

If a person is wise enough at 18 to vote and choose their leaders who have the huge and nuanced task of running a country, they are also wise enough to choose their life partners. Just because of one case (Priyanka Kharwar and Mohammad Salamat), the government cannot make people think that it is the norm elsewhere too. The earlier ruling given in that case has anyway been overturned now.

The real name of the ‘Love Jihad’ Bill is Vidhi-Viruddh Dharmantaran Bill, which takes into account forced conversions of all religions and not only by Muslims. But in popular parlance because of the word ‘Jihad’, only Muslims will be impacted. I feel they are trying to please both the intellectuals and non-intellectuals with this word-jugglery.

As someone who is in love with a Muslim man, I find this process in extremely bad taste. One does not take a likening to someone on the basis of their caste, community or faith etc. One merely takes a person’s heart into consideration, as to how that person makes one feel and how we feel when we care for them and their loved ones and families.

ALSO READ: ‘Love And Jihad Can’t Go Hand In Hand’

It is important for a country’s social structure that people live in happy marriages. If someone complains to the authority about problems in their marriage, then the government and courts may intervene. But bringing in the ‘Love Jihad’ kind of laws would be pre-empting things so far into the future that it becomes more of a problem than a solution.

My partner and I have talked marriage and we respect each other’s faiths and no one is going to convert to another’s faith. Our identity is for a large part dependent on the faith we practice and is one of the major reasons we fall in love with people. Someone who loves another truly wouldn’t want to change anything about that person, not even an inch, asking them to change the whole way they ‘practice’ (perfecting) their faith is totally out of question.

My parents have raised me very lovingly and we always listen to each other’s opinions respectfully. Open-minded and communicative parents leave their children a beautiful legacy and I wish, like parents, if the government really saw love jihad as such a huge issue, they should have initiated dialogues about it, rather than using it as poll rhetoric. I had never heard of the term ‘love jihad’ as a child, I started hearing it only in the recent years. I hope I stop hearing it soon.

(Representational picture used to keep the identity of narrator anonymous)