By Kanika Chugh
[Kanika Chugh is a third year student of B.A. LL.B (Hons.) at National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.]
A video of a man being attacked with a pickaxe went viral on the internet, in which after the first blow he manages to ask, ‘What did I do?’ His attacker not bothering to answer, strikes again, and the victim can be heard crying, ‘I am dead, I am dead’ and falls down motionless. This wasn’t another video of a racially driven police brutality in America, rather it was a murder driven by hatred towards Muslims in India, around two years ago.
The victim, later recognised as Mohammad Afrazul, a Muslim migrant labourer from West Bengal, was attacked in Rajsamand, a town near Udaipur in Rajasthan, by one Shambhulal Regar, who suspected that Afrazul was in a relationship with a Hindu woman. Regar later looks at the camera, and in a bid to ‘warn’ the Muslims says, ‘This is what will happen to you if you do “Love Jihad” in our country.’ [i] Neither was this the first incident of such sort nor the last one. Taking the pretext of Love-Jihad allegations, inter-faith couples have been harassed repeatedly, they have been subjected to stone pelting by political party leaders, [ii] Hindu girls who are friends with Muslim men have been assaulted and abused by the police personnel, [iii] pamphlets have been distributed advising girls on how to avoid ‘falling into the trap’ of Muslim men, [iv] and the list of similarly stigmatising and exploiting a particular religious community and the people who associate with them in a ‘secular nation’ by the supposed protectors of Hindu religion doesn’t end here. But what is this recent campaign- ‘Love-Jihad’? The paper aims to explore the nuances of the concept by tying it to a particular set of socio- cultural and political thread.
‘Love Jihad’ – Concept
Love-Jihad is ‘allegedly’ a drive launched by the Muslims to convert non- Muslim women to Islam through a false expression of love so that their wombs can be used to carry Muslim children and increase their population in areas where Muslim population is sparse. It is alleged that these young men are provided with money by ‘higher organisations’ to buy cars, mobile phones and present expensive gifts to target Hindu women, so that they can charm and lure them.
Allegations of ‘Love-Jihad’ first started surfacing in 2009, with claims that Muslim organisations were luring Hindu women in Kerala to convert them. Since then several investigations have been carried out but couldn’t substantiate these allegations. [v] The matter got national attention when the marriage of an inter- faith couple (Hadiya and Shafin Jahan) was annulled by the Hon’ble Kerala High Court stating that a girl of twenty four years was ‘vulnerable and weak’ and could be ‘exploited’ in many ways and it was not ‘normal’ on the part of a woman in her twenties to pursue a different religion. The High Court further held that the girl had no idea as to what she wanted in her life as she was an ordinary girl of ‘moderate intellectual capacity’ who seemed gullible and didn’t have a ‘consistent stand about her life or future’. [vi]
In this same case, the Supreme Court later in Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M., [vii] condemned the stand taken by the Kerala High Court in curtailing the freedom of choice of marriage and liberty of individuals. Hadiya’s marriage was restored to Shafin Jahan, thereby also rightly restoring the right of Indian women to marry according to their choice against the Indian patriarchal belief system.
Just Another Way of Enforcing Patriarchy
‘Love-Jihad’ allegations might attack Muslim men but they also simultaneously demean Hindu women, depicting them as incapable of taking their own decisions (as per the author’s interpretation of the Hadiya judgment), who fall into the ‘trap of seduction’ and know nothing of their own good. The fear of the ‘honour of the family’ puts the male members of the family in charge to make sure that the ‘women of their family’ do not become victims of ‘Love-Jihad’. Consequently, men assume authority, put innumerable restrictions on the women and girls of the household to ensure that they do not ‘roam around’ with Muslims. All male-member meetings have been called many a time to prevent women from getting trapped in Love-Jihad and even guidelines have been issued for men of the family to reduce the connection of women with any Muslim men. [viii] Safeguarding the ‘virtue of their women’ and the ‘community honour’ puts male dominance in action and thereby curtails liberties which women have gradually wrested from patriarchy, over time, in India.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India [ix] (“Constitution”) includes the freedom of choice in marriage and imposes a duty on the State to protect the right as was held in the case of Gang- Rape Ordered by Village Kangaroo Court in W. B., re. [x] Hence, preventing a woman from marrying the person of her choice deprives her of right to life and personal liberty. Also, the right to privacy has been held to be an integral part of right to life, [xi] it is a ‘right to be left alone’. [xii] Any right to privacy must encompass and protect the personal intimacies of the home, the family, marriage, motherhood, procreation and child rearing. [xiii] By invading inter-faith couples’ personal space, their right to privacy has been compromised several times in India. Political parties are equally culpable for adding fuel to the communal polarisation, pitting two communities against each other.
A Construct for Political Gains
The political construction of Muslim men as lecherous and abductors of Hindu women has instilled the fear of Muslims in every Hindu household. Organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) blame ‘western way of life’ and ‘fake secularism’ of parents for their daughters getting duped by Muslim men. [xiv] This emotive movement against the alleged ‘Love-Jihad’ calling for the Hindus to fight for their nation and their women creates a Hindu identity and binds them all in a sense of victimhood thereby supporting only those political parties which promise to fight against this ‘social evil’. The campaigns, slogans and protests against Love-Jihad along with the circulation of stories that have no factual background, pick up pace once the elections are round the corner and often provide a justification for communal riots. The political parties in a bid to woo their vote banks have made statements like: ‘Though the term ‘Love Jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws but it is a fact that it is happening’, [xv] and ‘Love Jihad is a dangerous thing and the Kerala government should make its stand clear about it.’ [xvi] These statements were not corroborated by any factual matrix and only distracted the general public from deeper issues like unemployment, growing fiscal deficit, decreasing GDP, etc. that could highlight the inefficiency of the government.
These allegations which drive a wedge between both the communities have also increased the insecurities regarding the other religion and have made way for intolerance in a secular nation. Secularism has been declared as an unalienable segment of the country’s political system, [xvii] to make sure that no one endeavours to make India a theocratic state. Politics in a positively secular State should be about maintaining distance from religion, in other words a political party should neither invoke religion nor be dependent on it for support or sustenance. [xviii] But political parties in India by trying to influence the electoral process by generating hatred towards a particular community and portraying them as fraud, have been violating this secularist feature of the Constitution.
The fear of their daughters falling prey to Love-Jihad has been so deeply embedded in the minds of Hindu parents that they can’t look beyond the religious identity of any Muslim man that their daughter introduces them to and/ or wants to marry. Some couples decide to elope which is named as ‘Love-Jihad’ and one of them often converts to avoid going through the cumbersome process of getting married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. [xix] Under the said Act, a public notice has to be given one month prior the marriage. If a Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist marries outside their religion, i.e. marries a Christian or Muslim, they would not be able to inherit the ancestral property as they are no longer considered a part of the Hindu family.
But are only Hindu women marrying outside their religious community? Muslim women have started to assert themselves as well in the matter of choosing who they want to marry, but this is often conveniently overlooked. The communal view of political parties labels every Hindu converting to Islam as ‘Love-Jihad’ and every Muslim converting to Hinduism as ‘ghar vaapsi’. Although it is important to fight against the crimes against women, labelling a particular community as criminals can only be an infructuous exercise. Additionally, while it is equally necessary to fight against forceful conversion, giving everyone the freedom to practice their religion is also important which includes giving one the right to convert.
Inter-faith marriages in a nation of such wide diversity need to be celebrated rather than demonised by cooking up stories of abductions and crimes solely for electoral and political gains. It is important to drop the prejudices against a particular community and view them as normal human beings rather than a terrorist waiting to exploit your daughter’s womb. Recently, a Special Investigation Team has been formed in Kanpur to probe into the matters of Love-Jihad and the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also asked officials to bring an ordinance to prevent ‘religious conversions in the name of love’. [xx] One can only hope that the Uttar Pradesh government will bring in an unbiased law.
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Legal Aid Society, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.)
[i] Editorial, “As Filmed Murder of Muslim Man in Rajasthan Goes Viral, Official Culture of Impunity Towards Hate Crimes Blamed” The Wire, Dec. 7, 2017, available at: https://thewire.in/communalism/rajasthan-muslim-man-hacked-to-death-video (last visited on July 30, 2020).
[ii] Editorial, “Crying ‘Love Jihad’, BJP Leader Attacks Couple, Arrested” The Tribune, May. 27, 2020, available at: https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/crying-love-jihad-bjp-leader-attacks-couple-arrested-90437 (last visited on July 30, 2020).
[iii] Editorial, “Shocking footage of UP Police assaulting Hindu woman for being friends with Muslim man” DNA India, Sept. 26, 2018, available at: https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-watch-shocking-footage-of-up-police-assaulting-hindu-woman-for-being-friends-with-muslim-man-2668060 (last visited on July 28, 2020).
[iv] Editorial, “Bengal: VHP issues advisory on how to avoid well-groomed Love Jehadis” DNA India, Sept.15, 2018 available at: https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-bengal-vhp-issues-advisory-on-how-to-avoid-well-groomed-love-jehadis-2663355 (last visited on July 28, 2020)..
[v] Sana Shakil, “Love Jihad not defined under existing laws, no case reported yet: Government in Parliament” The Indian Express, Feb. 5, 2020, available at: https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/feb/05/love-jihad-not-defined-under-existing-laws-no-case-reported-yet-government-in-parliament-2099277.html (last visited on July 27, 2020).
[vi] Asokan K.M. v. Shafin Jahan, (2017) 2 KLJ 974.
[vii] AIR 2018 SC 1933.
[viii] Charu Gupta, “Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions” 44 Economic and Political Weekly 14 (2009), available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25663907?seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents (last visited on July 25, 2020).
[ix] The Constitution of India.
[x] (2014) 4 SCC 42.
[xi] Ram Jethmalani v. Union of India, (2011) 8 SCC 1.
[xii] R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N., AIR 1995 SC 264.
[xiii] Gobind v. State of M.P., AIR 1975 SC 1378.
[xiv] Neelam Pandey, “For VHP, Bollywood Khans’ Hindu wives, New Year & birthday parties help spread Love Jihad” The Print, Sept. 26, 2020, available at: https://theprint.in/india/for-vhp-bollywood-khans-hindu-wives-new-year-birthday-parties-help-spread-love-jihad/510691/ (last visited on Sept. 26, 2020).
[xv] Editorial, “Love jihad is a Reality in Kerala, Claims BJP Leader” The Hindu, Feb. 06, 2020, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/love-jihad-is-a-reality-in-kerala-claims-bjp-leader/article30752049.ece (last visited on July 26, 2020).
[xvi] Editorial, “Love jihad is a Dangerous Thing: Adityanath” Times of India, Oct. 04, 2017, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/love-jihad-is-a-dangerous-thing-adityanath/articleshow/60937512.cms (last visited on July 26, 2020).
[xvii] State of Karnataka v. Praveen Bhai Togadia, AIR 2004 SC 2081.
[xviii] S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 1918.
[xix] Act 43 of 1954.
[xx] Editorial, “Adityanath govt. mulls ordinance against Love Jihad” The Hindu, Sept. 18, 2020, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/adityanath-govt-mulls-ordinance-against-love-jihad/article32643089.ece (last visited on Sept. 26, 2020).