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The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha plans to form “special teams” to “monitor” people, especially in Muslim-dominated areas, in order to “curb” love jihad.
This is what Rishi Trivedi, the president of the Hindutva group’s Uttar Pradesh chapter, told Newslaundry last week. It is this organisation which alerted the Uttar Pradesh police to an interfaith marriage in Lucknow’s Duda Colony earlier this month, in what became the of a wedding being stopped after the state had brought the “love jihad” ordinance, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
It didn’t matter that the Hindu bride and her Muslim groom had taken consent from their respective families – though, of course, they didn’t need it. There was no pressure for conversion, as the woman’s father confirmed to Newslaundry. Yet, the couple were made to “seek clearance” for their marriage from Lucknow’s district magistrate.
This is just the beginning for the Hindu Mahasabha. They have been to curb “love jihad” – a Hindutva conspiracy theory that Muslim men “lure” Hindu women into marriage with the sole intention of converting them to Islam – since 2017. Now that they have the law in Uttar Pradesh, they are ramping up their campaign to “save” Hindu women from Muslim men.
The Duda Colony wedding is a case in point. Not only did the Hindu Mahasabha stop it, with the help of the police, Trivedi claimed they even counselled the woman’s family to “find a Hindu boy” for her.
“By marrying into another religion, they shouldn’t try to tarnish or bring a bad name to Hindu religion,” Trivedi declared.
The Hindu Mahasabha office in Kursi Road.
New members being inducted into the Mahasabha.
Now, he has set his sights on areas such as Maulviganj, Lucknow, Bulandshahr, and Bareilly where he says his “special teams” will prevent the “exploitation” of Hindu women.
Question of ‘population control’
The Hindu Mahasabha was founded in 1915 by Madan Mohan Malviya. Its brochure proclaims that it stands by three slogans – “Jai Hindurashtra”, “Vande Mataram”, and “Jai Bharat”. Its presidents have included the Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and the group idolises Nathuram Godse, MK Gandhi’s murderer, as a “patriot”.
Trivedi, 47, joined the Mahasabha in 2015 and has led its UP chapter since July 2020. He started out as district president in Lucknow, and went on to become head of the outfit in Paschimanchal, or western UP, in 2017. A former employee of the Sahara Group, he now works in real estate.
We met Trivedi at the Hindu Mahasabha’s Kursi Road office on the outskirts of Lucknow. A man of average build with a guttural voice, he wore a black suede jacket and reclined in a chair swathed in saffron cloth. Around him hung pictures of past Mahasabha leaders Mahant Avaidyanath – considered the mentor to chief minister Ajay Bisht, popularly known as Adityanath – and Mahant Digvijaynath, as well as a portrait of the former RSS chief MS Gowalkar.
These are busy days for Trivedi. Planning is in full swing for the Hindu Mahasabha’s upcoming annual convention in Ayodhya. He told us the Mahasabha has around one lakh members in the state, spread across 55-60 branches, but refused to divulge the sources of its funding.
It is the organisation's district presidents who investigate cases of love jihad, with Trivedi overseeing their working. He is secure in his belief that marriages between Hindus and Muslims are “wrong”.
“Usually, such marriages result in talaq in a year or two, destroying an entire family,” he said, but could provide no data to back up this claim. “While Hindu religion prescribes two children, Muslims can have as many children as they want, according to the Quran. That’s why the Hindu Mahasabha has been advocating for a population control bill so that there is one law for everyone.”
Asked about the Duda Colony wedding, Trivedi claimed that a “local unit” of his organisation in Para learned about an interfaith marriage taking place. On December 2, Brijesh Shukla, a Mahasabha district chief, informed the assistant commissioner of police, Kakori, about it, but the administration “took the matter very lightly”. “They said that since parents from both sides had agreed to this marriage, there was nothing much they could do,” Trivedi complained.
So Shailendra Srivastava, from the Mahasabha’s legal cell, called Triloki Singh, the station house officer of Para. “He told him that individuals from two different religions cannot marry without taking permission from the district magistrate,” Trivedi recalled. “We are thankful to the police administration in Para for helping us save a girl’s life and honour.”
The “love jihad” law states that anyone who “desires” to convert should give a declaration to the district magistrate or additional district magistrate at least 60 days in advance. It doesn’t require a couple to inform the authorities about their marriage, however, which is required by the Special Marriage Act. There is no clarity whether the Act will prevail over the law.
After the Adityanath government issued the “love jihad” law, the Mahasabha sent the chief minister a congratulatory letter. It also declared that it would “launch awareness programmes to safeguard Hindu daughters from the jihadis”.
The letter the Mahasabha sent to Para police station.
Apart from fighting “love jihad”, Trivedi’s pet projects include arming Hindus for their “security”. A news report pinned to his wall shows Trivedi posing with an array of swords and guns on the occasion of Vijayadashami or, as he calls it, “Shastra pujan” day.
Shivpujan Dixit, a lawyer and Mahasabha member, said they also planned to set up an “anti-Majnun cell” to track interfaith unions.
“We will see what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in such marriages. And if need be we will hit the road,” he said, adding that 40 lawyers had recently joined the organisation’s legal cell.
They are currently following up on 10 out of the 13 cases of “love jihad” reported in Uttar Pradesh in the past month since the new ordinance was passed.
Referring to Muslims as “mlechchas”, a derisive term meaning “uncouth”, Dixit made it a point to show off his bigotry, as he explained that he never visits a Muslim barber or buys anything from Muslims, or even employs a Muslim.
“They need to be weakened financially in every possible way,” he said.
This is the third story in a series on the human cost of the Hindutva ecosystem’s ‘love jihad’ campaign. Read .
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