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Love jihad reloaded: Part I

How Hindutva brigade creates a forced conversion discourse in India

Love jihad reloaded: Part I

“Love jihad reloaded: Part I”

The History

The 1920s in UP beheld an outbreak of organized propaganda campaigns and inflammatory appeals by Hindutva politicians against luring and conversions of Hindu women by Muslim men, followed by allegations of rape, abduction and elopement or love and forced marriages. In those days the term “love jihad” was not thought of, as the notion of “Jihad” was added to common parlance only after sept 11, 2001. Inflammatory Pamphlets, handbills and posters, were openly distributed, supplemented by local meetings and rumour mills. Pamphlets with provocative titles like “Hindu Auraton ki Loot” (the theft of Hindu Women), which denounced Muslim propaganda for proselytising female preys, and “Hindu Striyon ki Loot ke Karan” (the reasons behind the loot of Hindu women), were tracts printed by the Arya Samaj showing how to save Hindu ladies from becoming Muslim.*1

This scare tactic has been in circulation ever since, but we can find it rearing its ugly head once again with renewed political vigour and a new catchy title ‘love jihad’ in 2009. Suddenly inter-religious marriages were being scrutinised and where the grooms were Muslim men, Right Wing media houses dubbed it as “Love Jihad” claiming that there were organisations funding Muslim men to target and trap Hindu girls to marry them. It was alleged that once the marriage was consummated, the women would be mistreated and would be dumped or more horrifyingly left to prostitution.

This claim was bandied about without any data or proof and was kept alive through primetime news discussions. After long months of protracted malignation and sensationalism the false propaganda came to its natural death when Police investigation reports from the states of Kerala and Karnataka finally put an end to all baseless allegations, by stating that though there were women who have converted to Islam, there was no factual proof regarding involvement of any organisations working with the aim of conversion through luring, nor of the men receiving any funds for the same. Inspite of such reports, the same narrative resurfaced in Karnataka during 2013 elections and in 2014 during Uttar Pradesh elections to whip up communal strife and consolidate Hindu votes of the BJP. In 2015 the Cobrapost ( an investigative online portal) had conducted a sting operation and caught on camera senior BJP leaders of Uttar Pradesh and their henchmen confessing to creating false ‘love Jihad’ stories by forcing Hindu women to file rape charges against their Muslim lover/husband under duress and threat of life and then quoting these cases as that of Love Jihad in media. And it was these false allegations that fanned the fire for renewed riots in Muzzafarnagar.

From love jihad to ISIS recruitment

Following the global surfacing of stories of young people converting to Islam, leaving their native countries, and joining the ISIS to become Jihad’s ; India has also had its fair share of such scary stories…some of these recruits having to be said to be hailing from Kerala. Stories of Salafi preachers radicalising youth to leave there present highly paid engineering and medical occupations and to turn to goat farming was the most discussed in Kerala media, conflating the minuscule Dammaj Salafi tradition and their ideals with those of ISIS. This helped in creating a renewed Islamophobic narrative in the public regarding conversions and subsequent marriage between converts, as radicalisation and recruitment to ISIS. The narrative propagated , though not confirmed by any investigative agencies of the Central nor State Government is that, there are 22 people missing from Kerala, including converted couples , and they are now in the middle east fighting for the ISIS. The most recent story of a converted muslim Homeopath Hadiya and her subsequent marriage to Shefin Jahan an expatriate and the Legal conundrum and socio-political discourse it has created shows how easily Islamophobia has seeped in through the aforementioned Hindutva discourse of lured/forced conversion.

The specific case story of Hadiya will be discussed in the next part to be published.

Further Reading:

The myth of love jihad

BJP, RSS Leaders Caught Using ‘Love Jihad’ Bogey to Fuel Communal Polarisation


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Varsha Basheer

Varsha Basheer obtained her Doctorate in English Literature at the University of Kerala, India. She has been teaching English as Second Language for undergraduates and is a human rights activist working closely with organisations promoting interfaith dialogue and inclusive action. She has been engaged in academic endevours trying to focus on how misconstrued media/literary representations propagates Islamophobia and jeopardizes religious harmony in India. Her research interests include critical Media studies, Comparative Religious Studies, Religious Pluralism and Secular Modernity. She intends to pursue Post- Doctoral research in Women Studies in Religion, focused on Muslim women in India.