Over the last 30 days, affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have spearheaded high-intensity protests across Maharashtra. Alongside a coterie of similar Hindutva outfits, they all have a single demand – the enactment of a “love jihad” law in the state.
Their demand is legitimised by the state government, with deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday that Maharashtra is “ready” to enact such a law “to ensure long-term protection to women”. He that the state isn’t against “interfaith” marriages, but love jihad happens “as part of a larger design”.
“Love jihad” is a Hindutva bogey that claims Muslim men seduce Hindu women with the express purpose of converting them to Islam. The conspiracy theory, while never really going away, has resurfaced anew after the in Delhi; she was murdered and then dismembered by her live-in partner, Aftab Poonawalla. Those participating in and leading the protests overflow with warnings of Muslims performing “black magic” on Hindu girls and how Bollywood encourages such behaviour.
So far, protest marches – with names like Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha, Hindu Jangarjana Morcha, Virat Hindu Morcha and Bhavya Aakrosh Morcha – have taken place in Ahmednagar, Nanded, Nashik, Dhule, Pimpri Chinchwad, Patan and suburban Mumbai. Most of the protests were under the banner of one Sakal Hindu Samaj, an RSS affiliate, with the active participation of RSS arms including the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party. Smaller groups – the Hindu Janajgruti Samiti, Vishwa Shriram Sena, Shri Ram Pratishthan Hindustan and Sanatan Sanstha – also participated in the protests.
The marches saw thousands of participants, waving banners and chanting slogans. Some of them include speeches by purported leading personalities to add fuel to their fire.
In Ahmednagar on December 14, for instance, a protest called the Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha featured inflammatory speeches by two controversial right-wing hardliners, Kalicharan Maharaj and Kajal Shingala. Kalicharan was last year for insulting Mahatma Gandhi and praising Nathuram Godse at a Dharam Sansad in Raipur. Shingala, who also goes by Kajal Hindustani, was for a speech she made in Udupi urging people to boycott Muslim businesses.
The protests took place across over seven cities in the past month.
Their speeches in Ahmednagar followed a similar pattern.
Kalicharan alleged “40,000 cases of love jihad happen in India on a daily basis”. He offered no data for his claim, nor did his audience ask him of it. “They do vashikaran, black magic on these girls,” he said. “But there is a way to counter this black magic – keep the tooth of a wild boar in water overnight and give that water to a girl stuck in a love jihad case. Make her drink it and she will be immediately out of black magic.”
Warning that Christianity and Islam are “not religions”, Kalicharan told his enthralled gathering that Muslims have an “800-year-old plan” – the – to “convert India into a country of Muslims”. “They have destroyed five lakh temples,” he said. “...They want to produce kids in large numbers and, within 10 years, they want a Muslim to be prime minister of India…They get Rs 7 lakh per case to trap Hindu girls.”
Shingala’s speech took off where Kalicharan had left off, urging the Hindu community to “protect itself”. She claimed Hindu women were being “decapitated”, “burned”, “sold or forced into prostitution”, and “sexually abused” by Muslim men.
“Islamic aggression is on the rise in the country and, in order to fight it, all Hindus need to unite,” she said. “Everyday, cases of love jihad happen in our country…Make your daughter a Jijabai, only then Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will be born. If you make her a Kareena Khan, then you will get a Taimur or Jehangir.”
Having dragged Kareena Kapoor Khan’s minor children into the controversy, Shingala then neatly segued into a tirade against Bollywood. Earlier this month, a song from Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming movie because it featured Deepika Padukone in an orange bikini. An Ayodhya seer even to burn Khan alive.
“Love jihad is happening because of Bollywood films, social media, drugs and fear,” Shingala said. “Bollywood has destroyed our generation. It should be boycotted economically and socially. They make films on love jihad. In Kedarnath, they showed a Hindu girl eloping with a jihadi. You will not benefit in any way by having cordial relations with Muslims.”
The audience clapped and cheered.
But who were the people at these protests? What attracts them to the ideas of people like Shingala and Kalicharan? Newslaundry spoke to several attendees of marches across Maharashtra to find out.
‘These protests are just starting’
Sarang Papalkar attended a protest march in Pimpri Chinchwad. Papalkar, 28, is a software engineer in Pune. He believes the Shraddha Walker murder “proved publicly that love jihad exists and that it’s not some made-up issue”. He also applauds the Sangh Parivar for “starting” this movement but leaving it to the public to take it forward.
“They don’t want any credit for it. They want Hindus to unite under one banner, therefore the platform of Sakal Hindu Samaj was formed,” he explained. “Every district has a coordination committee, formed over the past month. There is no particular leadership; everything is managed by common citizens. It has become a people’s movement.”
Speaking on behalf of “Hindus in Maharashtra”, he added, “We believe only the present government can bring in the law against love jihad. The assembly session is going on and the state assembly will definitely take cognisance of these protests.”
Saurabh Karde, a writer who participated in the march in Pimpri Chinchwad, told Newslaundry, “Many people consider love jihad as something imaginary that has been used for political gain. But love jihad is a hard reality. It has now been proven publicly with the Shraddha Walker case.”
Karde describes himself as a crusader against love jihad since 2014. “I myself have rescued around 18 girls with the assistance of the police,” he said. “We have girls in our team who counsel the girls trapped in love jihad.”
Like many other conspiracy theorists, he also spoke of how Muslims for Hindu women, though these claims have been and found to be untrue. “For every community, the rate is different,” he said. “Once these boys trap Hindu girls, they get money from the Muslim organisations involved in such practices. These boys keep Hindu names, dress like Hindu boys, and then trap the girls.”
Karde added that the protests also seek to address how Christians purportedly “convert Hindus using love and money” as well as the issue of cow slaughter.
Kunal Sathe, a member of the Sakal Hindu Samaj’s coordination committee in Pimpri Chinchwad, warned that love jihad is a “burning issue” that requires a law to “curb it”. He said “minor Hindu girls” were being “lured into traps” and subsequently “started dressing like Muslim girls and performing namaz”. It took a lot of “counselling”, he added, “but we have got them back on track”.
In Mumbai, BJP leader Vishal Bhagat told Newslaundry he had helped organise a rally under the banner of the Sakal Hindu Samaj back in July in Malad. The rally was against multiple issues – the , the in the film Kaali, and love jihad. In fact, over the past year, the Sakal Hindu Samaj had organised marches in Aurangabad, Thane and Ulhasngar, among others, in support of Sharma and to protest the who spoke in favour of her.
Bhagat is fully in support of the current slew of protests; his quotes used the same scare words – “lure”, “traps”, “prostitution”.
“Surveys have been conducted in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It has been discovered that 85 percent of room bookings in OYO are in the names of Muslim boys and Hindu girls,” he said, while being unable to provide any details on the legitimacy of this “survey”. “Secondly, 75 percent of employees of courier and food delivery companies are Muslim. These people, in the name of delivery, enter the houses of Hindus and get information about their girls.”
Bhagat’s vitriol continued in the same vein, though he also warned of impending woes like “cyber jihad” and “home jihad”. He added, “These protests are just starting. In the coming days, a change is definitely going to take place…When the real marches begin, it will become difficult for the administration to control them.”
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