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Love Jihad: A truth or just another allegation?

Love is love. It transcends beyond age, sex, religion and caste. Love is a mutual feeling between humans. We have either watched or read crazy love stories which have inspired us. From William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the duo of Anarkali Salem to Bollywood’s love stories such as 2 states or Bajirao Mastani explains to us the blend of cultures over the foundation of love. India being a secular nation is trying hard to accept the fact that love cannot be restricted to religion, caste, or sex. The tradition of arranged marriage in India holds an important position in the societal hierarchy, and the power of choosing partners lies at the hands of their parents. But it comes with conditions out of which the requirement is that the bride and groom belong to the same religion. Same caste or religion is now a necessity in the menu of arranged marriage. Though the rate of love marriages is increasing, inter-caste marriages are yet to be encouraged fully in India. The religious tiff between the Hindus and the Muslims rubs off on love and marriage between a couple. New laws are brought in place for people to avoid crossing the religious lines to choose their partner. The interfaith marriage between a Muslim man and a girl belonging to different religion is branded as Love-Jihad.

There are several genuine cases with solid evidence to prove the existence of Love-Jihad. The deaths of innocent Hindu women, brutal harassment have been identified and punished. When the cases of Love Jihad and the allegations are put to a trial on a weighing scale, the weight is distributed equally on both the sides. The anti-conversion laws were brought in place to save Hindu girls from being the victims of forceful conversion into Islam. Several cases have been exposed where a Muslim man with a fake identity pursues a non-Muslim girl, befriends her to marry him and pressurize her later to convert into Islam. The activists believe that the growth of love-jihad is real, and it disrupts the communal harmony and thus the anti-conversion laws are inevitable. The other side of the story shows us the cases where baseless allegations were hurled upon men to extract money. The anti-conversion law not just helped in finding out cases of coercion, but it also resulted in a crackdown on the Muslim men though the girl married him with her own consent. The much-debated sensitive topic unwinds itself like two sides of the same coin.

Technically speaking, the word ‘Jihad’ translates into a struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam. And as plain as it seems, ‘Love-Jihad’ is a fight against the interfaith marriage between a Hindu and a Muslim. Developed by the pro-Hindu organizations, the definition of Love Jihad is  explained as a conspiracy theory professing men of the Muslim community target non-Muslim women to convert them to Islam by seducing them, pretending to love, and deceiving them, kidnapping, and marrying them. The ideology is considered to be an attempt by the Muslims to wage a war against the Hindu majority nation and dominate the country with a demographic growth to a majority. The theory also propagates a patriarchal notion assuming that Hindu women need to be controlled and protected from Muslim men to save them from religious transformations. The consequences have been paid through assaults, murders, riots, and other violent incidents.

Started in 2009, the theory propagated around the country pointed fingers at Muslim men for luring Hindu women into marriage and forcefully converting them to Islam. The left-wing organizations argued that the BJP Government with its ideology rooted in the socio-political agenda that India is a Hindu country tested the Muslims over time. To add fuel to the fire, the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Bill, and the criminalization of Muslim “triple talaq” divorce increased the speculations of the Government and its intentions towards the marginalization of the Muslims. Similarly, the opposition asked whether the anti-conversion law was another arrow in the country’s quiver of Islamophobia?

Post-independence many anti-conversion bills were presented at the parliament. For example, in 1954, the Indian Conversion Regulation and Registration Bill was introduced but failed to see the light of the day since the bill was not supported in the lower house of the Parliament. This bill demanded licensing of the missionaries and mandatory registration of the conversion with the Government. It was immediately followed by the Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill in 1960, whose purpose stood at keeping an eye on the conversion of Hindus into non-Indian religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. In 1979, the Freedom of Religion bill was presented that sought to restrict religious conversions. However, they failed to gather support and remained just on paper. Even after many failed attempts, the interest in enforcing anti-conversion laws did not stop and aimed at the national level. But the Ministry of Law and Justice stated that the subject is purely a decision of the state. It opened up the doors for many states to enact anti-conversion laws independent of the center.

Image Credits: BBC

Orissa stood first in line. The Kandha tribe formed a majority of the population and considered the land of the Kandhamal district their home. They were in a constant clash with the second-largest community, the non-tribal Panas over land acquisition and insurgent activities. The backward Hindu classes and the Pana tribes were the Dalits of the land subjected to untouchability. During British rule, several Christian missionaries arrived at Odisha and started communal disharmony. The inflow of the Baptist missionaries continued post-Independence which was a ray of hope by the victims of untouchability and discrimination. The conversion into Christianity promised to end the untouchability and helped them grow financially. This sparked the conversion of millions of Panas into Christianity who was later called the Dalit Christians. Insecure by these changes in the demography, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act in 1967 was enacted which stated that no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious’ faith to another by the use of force. However, the action was dismissed by the Orissa High Court, stating that it was unconstitutional and baseless. But the fire was lit to spread further.

Following the footsteps of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh in 1968 legislated the Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam, an act to prohibit the conversion from one religion to another. On the contrary to the Orissa High Court, the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld this act. The decisions of both the courts were scrutinized by the Supreme Court. The five-panel judge reversed the decision of the Orissa High Court and favored the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Dharma Swatantrya Adhiniyam of Madhya Pradesh, stating that it does not grant the right to convert a person to his/her religion. The two cases of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh laid the foundation for other states to consider and implement anti-conversion laws.

The coalition between the AIADMK and the Bharatiya Janata Party drove Chief Minister Jayalalitha to pass the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act in 2002. The act enacted a similar statement made by the other two states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. It considered the unlawful conversion of one’s religion a crime, and Jayalalitha scored the majority to support the bill. However, political pressure and the fall of the BJP coalition resulted in the withdrawal of her decision to pass the law.

The Hindu Majority state Gujarat joined the race and introduced the Dharma Swatantrata Vidheyak-Freedom of Religion Act in 2003 to fight against forceful conversions, especially Love-Jihad. The BJP Government led by the then chief minister and the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi introduced the bill and called it one of the notable achievements during its term. The act is under consideration to be amended in 2021 by the current chief minister Vijay Rupani to include strict punishments against forceful conversions and a maximum of seven-year jail term. The Hindu right-wing parties consider this as another feather in their cap but does the society perceive it on a similar note?

The list of states that enacted the anti-conversion laws did not stop with Gujarat. As obvious as it seemed, the most populated state and dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Uttar Pradesh passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 on November 28. Mass conversions or a conversion of a woman or an SC/ST person into a different religion was considered an act of offence and penalized with Rs.50,000 or more and a maximum of 10 years jail term. This decision was regarded as a way to fight against Love-Jihad, and the Yogi Adityanath led BJP government added another law in propagating its Hindutva agenda. Similarly, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand have anti-conversion laws in place conflicting with the Religion of Freedom Act by the constitution. But the repercussions of these ordinances are written in violent clashes, riots and public lynching.

Uttar Pradesh's fight against Love-Jihad: In January, just a month after Uttar Pradesh’s Love-Jihad law, around 80 people were arrested, and 14 cases were filed under the anti-conversion laws enforced in 2020. Out of the 14 cases, 13 involved forceful conversion of Hindu women to Islam and the other was a case of conversion into Christianity. In another case in Muzaffarnagar, Nadeem along with his friend Suleman was booked for harassing and pressuring the wife of a private contractor to convert into Islam and marry him. The husband of the victim filed a case saying Nadeem visited their house frequently for work and developed a friendship with his wife, forcing him to shift with his wife and family to Muzaffarnagar. But due to lack of evidence, the Allahabad High Court stayed the proceedings of the case on December 18. The question of whether the law was used to settle scores with the Muslim community arose in the minds of the liberals.

On November 28, 2020, the first case of the anti-conversion law was booked in Bareilly against a 21-year-old man Uvaish Ahmad. The case was filed by the father of a 20-year-old Hindu girl, who claimed that Ahmad tried to lure his daughter to marry him. But Ahmad stated that the allegations are baseless, and he never tried to force her. The case was resolved, but a black mark remained on Ahmad’s personality which ruined his image and career.

Either convert or face the consequences: The reality of Love Jihad can be experienced through the case of Naushad. A minor girl raped and forced to convert to Islam for marriage was charged against Naushad and was arrested under the provisions of anti-conversion law. The minor who was pregnant has also reported that she was pushed to undergo an abortion. The Amethi police arrested Naushad after the survivor’s father filed a complaint. The consequences faced by a girl for not agreeing to the conversions are appalling. Such true incidents try to answer the question, is Love Jihad real? 

Bulandshahr Love Jihad lynching: The cases of lynching in Uttar Pradesh were common even before the Religious Freedom Act, 2020. On April 27, 2017, Gulam Ahmad was beaten to death in Sohi village by a group of right-wing mobs after he was indicted for supporting a 19-year-old Muslim boy elope with a Hindu girl. The main accused, Gavendra was arrested later who was responsible for the lynching and the murder of Ahmad. With the support of the local members of Hindu Yuva Vahini, Gavendra said that this was a case of love-Jihad, and the girl was lured into eloping with Yusuf. After the murder of Ahman, the mob attacked the family. The girl’s family filed a complaint against Yusuf for kidnapping, and he was arrested. Ahmad’s family lives in fear, and the nightmare does not seem to end.

The Love Jihad tale of two states: In a case of two states, a Muslim man from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, who used to travel to Kolkata posed as a Hindu with a fake identity Raju, met a girl and developed a friendship with the girl’s Hindu family. Raju married her as per Hindu traditions and in what seemed like a happy marriage, she gave birth to three children. However, the girl was terrified when she moved to Meerut to realize the truth about Raju who revealed his identity as a Muslim and was previously married with four children. She was then asked to convert to Islam and remarry Raju according to Islamic traditions. For over four years, she was kept in chains inside the house and tortured physically and mentally. A case was filed against Raju and his family by the woman with the help of Bajrang Dal and the family is now absconding. The genuine cases of Love Jihad put anyone’s mind in a state to justify the anti-conversion laws enacted.

“People like you are the reason why this law has to be enforced": In a video clip that went viral online, a mob with orange scarves decked around their neck jeered a woman in Moradabad town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The activists who were a part of the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu group, reached out to the local police who arrested the woman’s husband and his brother. The 22-year-old woman was pregnant and under the government, the shelter accused the officials of mistreating her and ignoring her during her pain. Later that week, she was released and returned to her husband’s house after she clarified that she is an adult and married the Muslim man by her own choice and not by force. However, her husband was held under custody though the marriage was done with her consent. The question of subjugation of Muslims under the Love-Jihad law raised questions with no answers.

The Kanpur Case of allegations: In a curious case of Love Jihad, Komal Goswami, a 29-year-old Hindu woman was stabbed by his ex-lover Shibu Ali who was arrested for an attempt to murder in Kanpur. According to Komal, in 2013, Shibu Ali had introduced himself as Sachin Sharma and lured her into a relationship with him and convinced her to move to Noida. As the relationship began to unwind, Shibu Ali came out as a Muslim and started to ill-treat her by beating and forcing her to eat beef. She also claimed that he asked her to wear a veil when going out. In 2016, Komal decided to end her relationship with Shibu and moved back to Kanpur.

The case remained under a closed casket until the anti-conversion law was enforced in U.P. Komal’s lawyer filed a petition against Shibu who was under the trial for a murder attempt. The petition claimed that Shibu is charged for compelling Komal to wear a burqa, forcing her to eat cow meat and taking her to mosques was a motive of conversion to Islam. In a proof provided by the lawyer, the marriage contract between Shibu and Komal was signed under the name Zoya, which he added was the name given to Komal after conversion. But a different side to the story was revealed by Shibu Ali.

Shibu Ali who was under trial for an attempt to murder in Kanpur Central Jail informed his lawyer about his whereabouts and said that the allegations on him were baseless and wrong. In his letter to the lawyer, he wrote that Komal used to teach at Reshma Public School in Noida signed as Zoya. He also claimed to possess love letters from Komal back in 2010 before their marriage who addressed him as Shibu and not Sachin. Either of the parties and their families disagreed with the allegations hurled at them. Furthermore, Komal appeared on the ABP news channel, which broadcasted a show on the victims of love-jihad. However, sources claim that she wasn’t invited by the news channel and her presence in the show was arranged by a member of the Bajrang Dal, a pro-Hindu organization. While who was on the wrong side of the judgement never surfaced, whether the Love-jihad theory, in this case, was true or just an allegation remained a mystery.

Image Credits: BBC

Muslim religion and a Hindu name?

A piece of recent news in Haridwar, Uttarakhand surfaced were Danish, a Muslim man posed himself as Akash and lured a Hindu woman to forcibly marry her. Introducing himself under a false name in 2018, Akash alias Danish connected physically with the girl, forcibly aborted and then married her. Post marriage, she was subjected to domestic violence and was forced to abort again. Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat stated that they are taking strict measures to control the cases of Love-Jihad.

Rajasthan and its Love-Jihad violence: A shocking video surfaced online in 2017, where a man was seen attacking another man and burning him alive over the allegations of Love-Jihad. The perpetrator Shambu Lal murders the victim Mohammad Afrazul, a resident of the Western state of India, Rajasthan. The video that went viral also shows the accused justifying his act stating that he was protecting the honor of Hindus against Muslims. Shambu Lal was later taken into custody by the state police. In another statement, he warns Muslims saying that "This is the fate of everyone who propagates love jihad in our country." The baseless theory of Love-jihad had started to strike terror in the minds and hearts of the society.

The Tara Shahdeo case of Love-Jihad, Ranchi: Ace shooter Tara Shahdeo accused her husband of marrying her by keeping his religion in the dark. The shooter also alleged that Ranjeet Singh Kohli alias Raquibul Hassan forced her to convert to Islam post marriage. Kohli was arrested on August 26, 2014, after an FIR was filed against him on the grounds of cruelty on August 19, 2014.However, the story took a turn when Kohli released a letter saying that he was not a Muslim and followed the Sikh religion. Furthermore, he presented proof of his driving license, which was dated 2005, under the name Ranjeet Singh Kohli. The allegations were purely hurled to claim a hefty amount of 15 lakhs by Tara. The letter also demanded an unbiased investigation, and he could produce all the documents required and requested protection. The couple were granted a divorce in June 2018, petitioned by Tara and her counsel in January 2017 on the grounds of domestic violence. Ranjeet in his letter stated, “I am not a Muslim, I am a Sikh, and I married Tara as per Hindu traditions and rituals.”

Whom do we believe?

Trying to lure Hindu women: A married Muslim man was arrested in Dumka district, Jharkhand for allegedly trying to lure a 19-year-old Hindu girl in 2021. Under the false name of Satish Rai alias, Tipu Sultan developed a friendship with the girl and tried to woo her into a relationship with him. Due to several suspicions from the villagers, the man was arrested by the Palajori police. The incident was followed by a demand to frame a law against love-jihad by the local wing of RSS.

The end of social evil: A young woman, Anusha Hedge hailing from Shimoga, Karnataka married a man Javed Khan from Mysore with her consent. But that’s what it looked like when it was revealed that Javed was already married twice, and this was his third marriage. Anusha’s family strongly opposed the marriage but in vain. Anusha who realized the history of Javed returned to her parents. She stated that Javed kept him under house arrest and accused him of domestic violence. A complaint was registered by the parents who were later visited by Javed and Anusha returned to him to Mysore. The parents have now raised another complaint of kidnapping which was later dismissed by the police department. The former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced that Karnataka would end the social evil, Love-Jihad.

Consensual or forced conversion?

When Hadiya Jahan informed her parents about her conversion to Islam, it was not welcomed. Previously known by her Hindu name as Akhila Asokan, she claimed that she was impressed by her roommates who were practicing Islam. But her father, K.M. Asokan dismissed her claims and approached the Kerala High Court stating that she was forced to convert to Islam. But the court ruled out Asokan’s accusations and said that she was free to choose her religion, and there was no substantial proof of coercion. Asokan approached the Kerala High Court again, stating that he had the recording of a call with his daughter stating that she was brainwashed by her friends and wanted her to send to Syria. By this time, Hadiya was married to Shafin Jahan who was also a resident of Kerala and was now on trial under the grounds of forceful conversion which indirectly translated to Love-Jihad. Considering the evidence produced, the Kerala High Court struck down the marriage. What was a consensual marriage that was now annulled under the law of Love-Jihad? The case is now stuck in the Supreme Court with no direction to move forward by Hadiya and Shafin.

Kerala’s Church calls for action: A video circulated over WhatsApp in several Christian groups showed a girl moving into her husband’s home by defying her parents. Minutes later, the man appears in a traditional Muslim wear and covers the wife’s head in a dupatta. The video also showed him explaining to her the ways of the Quran and then selling her to a group of people who were later revealed as terrorists. The clip was shared by the Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action, a Kerala based organization that was said to be based on the assertion of “exposing love jihad”. With a similar premise, the Syro Malabar church of Kerala also raised concerns about Christian women targeted through love jihad. The theory was not just wrapped around Hindu and Muslims.

Image Credits: The Quint

The final question, Truth, or an allegation?

The cases of propelling allegations do not end with these. Whether the theory of Love-Jihad is true or just another agenda propagated by the far-right wing remains debatable. However, every story has its bright side. On a positive note, a Muslim man in Karnataka who is the guardian of an 18-year-old Hindu girl, aided and married her to a Hindu man in a full-fledged Hindu tradition. Mehboob Masli, the guardian said, "It was my responsibility to marry her off to a man from the religion she belongs to."

While many claims purport that love-jihad is true and evident, the liberals state that the act is consensual and freedom to choose a religion is not subjected to any propaganda. The anti-conversion laws were brought in place to stop forceful conversions. However, several inter-faith marriages were ceased under the law even though the families had their consent. In the name of Love-Jihad, communal indifferences are triggered, and the friction between the communities remains unsolved. It is true that the cases of Love Jihad are real and trickle in various parts of the nation now and then. But this shouldn’t be used as a concrete base to blame every other interfaith marriage for Love Jihad. A few personal interviews revealed that the conversions to Islam were not forced by any Muslim men. It was self-will. The perspective of every eye differs, and the theory may appear to be true or just an allegation with the way it is perceived. Though we all believe what we need to believe, in the end, love is love.

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