By Aijaz Ahmad Turrey and Inamul Haq
The term, ‘Love Jihad’, which emerged half a decade ago, poses considerable threat to contemporary India. Indian society, plural in custom and tradition in respect to region and religion, is now turned into a space of hatred, hostility, and communal strife. The question arises: who are responsible for the current situation in India – Hindus and Muslims or politicians?
History is witness to numerous inter-caste as well as inter-religious marriages in India. From Bollywood to cricket icons, from politicians to the common man, such marriages have happened in India before and nobody has raised a finger. A large number of conversions took place from 2006 onward in places such as Kerala and such conversions were seen as a threat to national security of India. ‘Love Jihad’ is considered to be a new form of religious conversion in which young Muslim men allegedly target young non-Muslim women. However, the case of Akhila (Hadiya) raised a serious alarm because the case was taken to the High Court of Kerala and then to the Supreme Court and even involved investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also invoked the term ‘Love Jihad’ during an election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, when he said that there is nothing that proves that ‘Love Jihad’ exists. It is seen as a ploy to keep Muslims and Hindus apart.
Cow vigilantism and ‘love jihad’ have been used by right-wing Hindu groups as licences to threaten Muslims in India. Muslims remained the prime targets of the cow vigilantes as, according to an India Spend report, 86% (24 out of 28 persons) casualties are Muslims. In the data collated since 2010, 97% of all cow-related violence has taken place during Mr. Modi’s regime. India is a secular, democratic country and the constitution has granted its citizens various freedoms that are enshrined as the fundamental rights. Article 25-28 promises freedom of religion, which includes the right to practice and convert to any religion and propagate it (Article 25). However, in contemporary India, if a Muslim converts to Hinduism, it is called ‘Ghar Wapsi’, while if anyone accepts Islam, especially young Hindu girls, it is labelled as ‘Love Jihad’. The bogey of ‘Love Jihad’ has claimed another life in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district. The much touted case of ‘Love Jihad’ in Kerala is simply a case of love marriage between a Hindu girl (Akhila) and a Muslim boy (Shafin Jahan). However, it is presented before the public as an anti-national activity, apart from being a case of forced conversion. The marriage is considered a part of a plan to send the Hindu girl to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). While she was kept under house-arrest, Akhila said fearlessly in an interview, “I want to go with my husband. Nobody forced me to convert.” The case makes evident that a particular religious identity – Muslims – is under attack from the majoritarian forces. On the other hand, Afrazul, who was beaten brutally and then burnt alive in Rajasthan in the name of ‘Love Jihad’, was a Muslim labourer from West Bengal. He was married with grandchildren. The killer, a Hindu man, fearlessly uploaded the shocking video with warning to Muslims: “If you spread love jihad in this country, this will be your fate. Stop love jihad; otherwise, get out of this country.”
The frequent violent attacks by Hindu groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, and local Gau Rakshaks form a pattern of sporadic sectarian violence against minority Muslims. Such violence has got a shot in the arm from controversial comments made by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, who recently said that Muslim demographic trends in India are disturbing and a cause for concern. Cow vigilantism and ‘Love Jihad’ are a manifestation of the xenophobic mentality of these Hindu groups, which fear that India will soon become an “Islamic state” and will be over-run by Muslims.
The pseudo and selective concern of hate-filled Hindu groups is bound to produce a result contrary to their intentions. Such hatred and fear of violence convey the message that only the majority Hindus are legitimate rulers in the country, while the minority population must live according to the whims and fancies of the majority group. If majoritarian violence in the name of cow and ‘Love Jihad’ doesn’t stop, India would descend into a state of morbid hooliganism and fascism that Germany witnessed after 1933. The country which can burn alive a human being can transgress any imaginable boundary of barbarity.
Aijaz Ahmad Turrey and Inamul Haq are doctoral researchers at the Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.
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