The Hindutva bogey of “love jihad” has made a comeback lately. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have even brought legislation to purportedly curb “forced conversions” through interfaith marriages. The idea of “love jihad” flows from the conspiracy theory that Muslim men seduce Hindu girls with the sole purpose of converting them to Islam. Unsurprisingly, the theory has been peddled by Hindu supremacist groups whose members have fashioned themselves as “anti-love jihad warriors”. They push nutty claims such as how Muslim men use “witchcraft” to turn Hindu girls against their families, or how Muslims are “sexual predators” who prey on Hindu women, or how India will be an “Islamic nation” by 2060. And all these groups are either directly or indirectly connected to the Sangh Parivar.
These “anti-love jihad warriors” of the Sangh Parivar can’t be dismissed as “misguided youth”, as some politicians and pundits do. These are men and women with families and often flourishing businesses who simply won’t tolerate a Hindu woman marrying a Muslim man because they somehow regard it as an existential as a threat to Hinduism. Really, though, as Newslaundry gleaned from speaking with some of these “warriors”, their opposition to such relationships stems from their dislike, even hatred, of Muslims. We spoke to them to understand why they have dedicated their lives to fighting “love jihad”.
‘Muslim boys use witchcraft’
Suresh Sharma, 49, is a local leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad in Guna, Madhya Pradesh. He has been with the extremist Sangh Parivar group for nearly 20 years, working full time. He doesn’t depend on the VHP for a living, though. For that, he cultivates 19 acres of ancestral land in Guna.
Sharma’s list of “achievements”, in his own words, includes “bringing back 50 Hindu girls” who had been in relationships with Muslim men or eloped with them.
“Love jihad is entrapment of Hindu girls by Muslim men in order to turn them into babymaking machines and increase the Muslim population,” he said, speaking at his home in Guna. “This whole thing is a deep conspiracy and starts outside coaching centres, schools, or even inside your homes.”
Lest you couldn’t make sense of his bizarre ideas, Sharma explained how it works. “These Muslim boys make good bodies, wear good clothes, and stand outside coaching centres with their motorcycles to attract Hindu girls,” he said. “They initiate conversation on the pretext of dropping them home on their bikes. Then, after two or three such trips, they take the girl’s number and start texting her. This gradually changes into long conversations and finally into an affair in a few months.”
To “hide their identities”, Sharma went on, the Muslim men wear “tilaks and kalawas”, meaning a mark on the forehead and a red thread on the wrist that some Hindus wear.
“Then they give witchcrafted talismans to the girls who stop listening to their parents and only follow the orders of these boys, and marry them. Then, after producing two or three children, these girls are sold to other Muslim men or into prostitution. If a girl refuses to marry or convert, she is subjected to threats, she is told her private pictures and videos will be circulated, or her family members will be murdered. These guys also eye the property of Hindu families as after trapping the girl, they capture the property.”
Is there evidence for any of this? “It is a common practice,” Sharma replied. To combat which, he added, the VHP has set up a wide network of its members, followers and supporters. “Even if families don’t inform us we come to know about such affairs and marriages from our activists and sources,” he said. “Regarding marriages, we generally get information from courts. There are lawyers who are connected with our organisation, either directly or indirectly, and they provide us with information on the dates of interfaith marriages in court.”
Once they are alerted, Sharma said, the VHP’s members and supporters go to the court “in large numbers”, taking along the woman’s father and brother. Their lawyers file an objection application, ostensibly on behalf of the woman’s parents.
What if the woman’s relatives don’t agree to come along? Not to worry, Sharma said. In that case, “our lawyers file the objection application on their own so that the wedding can be stopped”.
Once an objection application is filed, the marriage can’t happen for a month at least, according to the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
“We then convince the girl’s family to file an FIR since it cannot be filed without their approval,” Sharma continued. “After the FIR is registered, the boy is booked under charges of rape.”
The VHP doesn’t hold back in stripping away agency and privacy from the couple. “In cases of affairs between Muslim boys and Hindu girls, we keep a close vigil on them and their movements,” Sharma said. “We find out their names, addresses, and the spots where they meet each other. Then we take the father or brother of the girl to that location and catch them red-handed. Then we get the family to file an FIR against the Muslim boy.”
But why does Sharma personally do this? “It’s important to fight ‘love jihad’,” he replied. “Otherwise, by 2060, this country will be an Islamic nation.”
‘We working with restaurants, security guards’
The VHP isn’t alone in this crusade. The Hindu Jagran Manch, a Sangh Parivar affiliate, is dedicated to battling what it denounces as the “curse of interfaith couples”, specifically couples where the man is Muslim and the woman Hindu.
A top leader of the Manch in Madhya Pradesh, who spoke to Newslaundry at length on the condition of anonymity, claimed the “maximum number” of “love jihad” cases occur in Bhopal, Raisen, and the Muslim-dominated areas of Malwa.
“We conduct maa beti sammelan to create awareness about ‘love jihad’,” he said, referring to programmes for mothers and daughters. “We tell mothers and their daughters to be wary of Muslim boys and how they lure Hindu girls into their traps, how they adopt Hindu identities by wearing kalawa and tilak to fool them. Eighty percent of the time they approach Hindu girls with fake identities.”
He was quick to emphasise that the Manch is not “against love”, but “fraud marriages with fraud intentions”.
The Manch learns about interfaith marriages from courts and notaries that register marriages. “RSS activists also provide assistance,” he said, referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mothership of Sangh Parivar. “We also befriend security guards in parks and ask them to keep an eye on couples, especially Muslim boys roaming around with Hindu girls.”
The security guards contact the Manch if they “see a couple engaging in any sexual activity”. “Our activists capture them, ascertain their identities, and hand over the boy to the police,” the leader boasted. “In big cities, we also get in touch with restaurants and coffee shops owned by Hindu people who support our cause to inform us about Muslim boys preying on Hindu girls.”
How does the Manch identify whether or not the boy in question is Muslim?
“It isn’t a difficult task. Hindu boys are under pressure to study and are concerned about their careers. So, they hardly get into affairs,” he said, without offering any evidence whatsoever to back up his claim. “Even if one percent of them get into affairs they never engage in sexual relations before marriage. But a Muslim man’s first step is to engage in a sexual relationship. They are sexual predators.”
Indian law makes it shockingly easy for Hindutva “activists” to harass couples. The Special Marriage Act makes it mandatory for a couple to submit a notice 30 days before the marriage is registered. The notice is publicly displayed at the registrar’s office because the law it should be “conspicuous”.
“Our activists keep an eye on such notices. Our sources also inform us about such posters,” the Manch leader said. “Our activists then visit the family. We ask whether the marriage is happening with their consent, which most of them deny. We then convince them to file an FIR under Section 376.”
Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code punishes rape. If the Hindu woman in question is a minor, then the Muslim man is also booked under Section 373 which punishes “buying minor for purposes of prostitution” as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. “We then try to get these girls remarried to Hindu boys. But it’s not an easy task as people in the community don’t accept them,” he lamented.
They also “encourage” the family to compel the woman to provide a statement against her Muslim partner. “In cases of minor girls, it is a cakewalk,” he added, “because they do what they are told by their family members and us.”
This is often done with the help of the police, claimed a VHP member who refused to be identified, “In general the police support us, but sometimes they don't. This one girl would not file a complaint against the boy whom she had eloped with. She was very adamant. The police tried to convince her politely, but when she still wouldn’t agree they forced her to file the complaint. The police then sent her to a relative’s place who married her off to Hindu boy within 15 days. The girl’s family was happy.”
‘It’s important to set such examples’
An RSS leader spewed the same bigotry, but, like the Manch leader, from behind a veil of anonymity. He claimed that even Tina Dabi, an IAS officer, had been “trapped” through “love jihad”. Dabi and her ex-husband earlier this year. Her story has become a big talking point in Hindutva circles, simply because her former husband is Muslim.
Frighteningly, the RSS leader even condoned “honour killings” to combat “love jihad”. Citing a case where a brother murdered his sister for eloping with a Muslim man, he said: “Sometimes it is important to set such examples. Now, no girl in that family will ever think of marrying a Muslim man again.”
This is the second story in a series on the human cost of the Hindutva ecosystem’s ‘love jihad’ campaign. Read the first story.
This report is part of the NL Sena project which 109 of our readers have contributed to so far. It was made possible thanks to Mayank Garg, Rahul Kohli, and other NL Sena members. and help keep news free and independent.