Of course, most of us have lulled ourselves into a sort of blind belief in plural traditions and a pride in what we think are deeply imbibed secular values. Many of us are quite irreverent about religion and the self-proclaimed men of god. Some of us were raised in homes that celebrated Id along with Diwali, Holi and Christmas and that is what we pass on to our children, hopefully along with other convictions.
But another India is now noisily invading our senses and our sensibilities. It is not the India that embraces all, but the India of little men with even smaller minds, who diminish both Hindu and Muslim, men and women, reducing them to actors in the ongoing epic of Love in the Time of Hate. Like Mr Bansal (who is currently enjoying 15 minutes of TV fame), when the footsoldiers of this India speak, they mostly scream and hector. Such as BJP MP Yogi Adityanath: “They take one Hindu woman, we’ll take a hundred.” Gabbar Singh would applaud this dialogue!
Clearly, prejudice is passed off as ideology; garbage disseminated as fact. I was introduced to this mentality in the course of initiation into covering the BJP/VHP/RSS, much before the term “love jehad” gained currency. In 1997, in another publication, I was exhorted by a senior editor to familiarise myself with what he called “the loonies”. I dutifully went to the VHP’s office in Delhi’s North Avenue to meet Giriraj Kishore, my first one-to-one conversation with a VHP leader. He examined my name card and then held forth about Hindus and Muslims. Muslim men, he said, had a surgery that made it possible for them to give greater “anand” (pleasure) to Hindu kanyas (nubile young women). Hence they were literally and metaphorically “at it”, particularly in Gujarat where apparently a seduction rampage was on at that time (the VHP leader’s special focus on Gujarat predates the riots or the coming of Narendra Modi).
I remember squirming with embarrassment both for myself and the aged demagogue referred to as “acharya” (wise teacher) by the faithful. The encounter quickly became hysterical as Kishore then moved from the theme of prowess of men of a particular religious denomination to the wonders of cow urine. He spoke with pride about a clock that kept ticking in melas (fairs) organised by the VHP on the “electricity” generated by gau mutra (cow urine). He suggested that cow urine would be the “bharatiya” solution to the energy crisis (the mind boggles at the thought of a nation collecting enough bovine pee to fuel its cars!). He then summoned one of his flunkies to give me a gift of holy cow urine churan and soap. He promised a healthier digestion and complexion if the products were used regularly. I would later gift these delectable items to the senior editor known for his leanings towards the BJP. The “loonies” were the subject of a long-standing joke.
The point of telling this tale is to illustrate the fact that the idea of the macho Muslim male seducing innocent damsels in order to convert them is not something new. The term ‘love jehad’, first used in Kerala and the Mangalore coast of Karnataka around 2009, is just a catchy phrase for a phenomenon the VHP-Bajrang Dal and other extremist groups in any case believe has been happening for thousands of years. Their visual idea of history seems to be somewhat like those Amar Chitra Katha comics that some of us may recall as depicting Muslims as slanted-eyed invaders with beards, while the “local” women are always shown as wide-eyed innocents of rather voluptuous proportion.
More than an insult to men from a particular denomination, the notion of love jehad is at its core an insult to all women, who are seen as nothing more than chattel, led astray sometimes by wicked men with impure thoughts. But they can apparently be made to see the righteous path with the help of the VHP/RSS that has launched a “brotherhood” campaign in western UP where Hindu girls will tie rakhis on Muslim men. In the land of khap panchayats, brother and sister will presumably live in innocent harmony till the families decide it is time for wedlock and child-rearing to keep the caste and community lineage going.
Empirical socio-economic data should be collected from areas where love jehad is supposed to have happened and where it has now allegedly spread to. That would be Kerala, the Mangalore coast of Karnataka and now western UP. One can hazard an intelligent guess that in all these regions the Muslim community would be large in numbers, of which there would be a prosperous strata. They would have come up economically and it is also very likely that the more visible signs of this prosperity would be an increase in the numbers of minarets of madrassas and mosques.
During the May 2013 assembly elections in Karnataka, the BJP-RSS even made love jehad an electoral issue, although that could not avert their defeat. But after the tremendous Lok Sabha show in UP, the BJP has to strike deeper roots in the state where it has mostly been out of power for two decades. Critical byelections take place in 12 seats on September 13 and it is no doubt useful to keep the pot boiling. Even if there’s a let-up after that, the reality now is that the social compact between minorities and other social groups in the state has been broken, a process that began after the riots in Muzaffarnagar, exactly a year ago.
Still, people do live in the same towns and the chemistry of love and attraction cannot be circumscribed. Girls of one religion will continue to fall in love with boys from another and vice versa. But because the situation in UP is poised so delicately and the potential for trouble so great, here’s a suggestion for the Muslim community: clerics, prominent citizens and elders of the community should advocate a court marriage in the case of mixed couples. As it is, Muslim personal laws diminish women’s rights. If a girl from another community is to enter a Muslim home, a genuine effort should be made to have a more enlightened approach. In the small towns of UP, the community should organise, reflect and come up with a rational strategy. Clerics too must show that they can speak for something beyond defending regressive personal laws and feeding off the fears of a community.
Meanwhile, in the land of love jehad, I am still examining the family tree and calculating: how many men from the family got women from “that” side? How many women were lost to men from “their” side? My mathematics is poor but it looks like my family struck even—won some, lost some. But then, isn’t all fair in love and war?
The fictitious theory of ‘love jehad’ is a new pretext to inflame communalism (Needed, a Love Jehad for the Soul, Sep 8). This is the only way some hardline right-wing organisations can pretend to be relevant in society. Even Narendra Modi, seen by many as the face of communalism, has emphasised on development for all citizens, regardless of religion, community or place of origin. But these organisations are intent on dragging the nation through the mud. They hope to kill two birds with one stone: keep communal tension alive and, invoking the bogey of ‘love jehad’, impose restrictions on women.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
Terms like ‘love jehad’ erupt in an atmosphere of fear. The root of that fear: the notion that when one Hindu girl marries outside the religion, in effect three or four lives (her non-Hindu children) are lost to the community.
Subhadeep M., Bangalore
I have no problems with someone falling in love with or getting married to someone from another faith. But why is it that it is always the Hindu partner who has to convert?
S. Bandyopadhyay, Calcutta
This time in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP does not have the Ram mandir as its top priority. What it is working at is creating an atmosphere of hatred that will yield votes.
Anwaar, Dallas, US
I can say from experience that love is a many-splendoured thing. And I recently came across a beautiful definition of the much-abused word jehad. “The goal of true jehad,” it goes, “is to attain harmony between islam (submission), imam (faith) and ihsan (righteous living).” Unfortunately, the term ‘love jehad’ combines two sublimely beautiful concepts into a sinister and hateful monstrosity.
Col C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
‘Love jehad’ may or may not be happening in Uttar Pradesh. But I know it was happening in Kerala some time back. In fact, some churches even warned parishioners of the “danger”.
K.S. Padmanabha, Secunderabad
Apropos A Love Jehad for the Soul (Sep 8), how can anyone swallow this disgusting absurdity, 'love jehad'? Several Muslim women call me “chacha”, “nana” and so on, and I bask in their affection At least two of my nominally Muslim bhatijis have married Hindu men. Does all this make me party to some bloody dharmayuddh?
Apropos of Needed, a Love Jehad for the Soul (Sep 8), there’s nothing wrong with love marriages at all—the problem is when the partners are from different religions and one of them has to convert. Usually, it’s the woman; and it’s rarely voluntary.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Happy Holi 2015 and Happy Holi Messages
>>The height of Sanghi wisdom! Courts to decide on history & archaeology!!
According to imbeciles, history and archaeology will be decided by charlatans who write books on archaeology without having visited the site, who write expert articles on history but admit in court that they have no knowledge of the subject. Morons who still struggle to understand the concept of hearsay seem to have penchant for those frauds who have had their chaddis taken off in open court!
>> " It is because Historians and Archaeologists are reluctant to give an honest verdict that the judiciary has been asked to decide."
The judiciary's role has to be much narrower than all those points that you have listed may indicate.
" Courts to decide on history & archaeology!"
" Courts to decide on history & archaeology!"
A few questions for Saroja:
1. Ayodhya has a special place for Hindus because it is the birthplace of Rama. In what way is it important for Muslims?
2. Is Babur an Indian or was he a foreigner?
3. Does Islam have high regard for temples in which idols are worshipped? What is the official position of Islam towards idolatry?
4. In Saudi Arabia, the holy land of Muslims, ancient mosques where the Prophet has prayed, have been demolished to build hoteld and mosques. Is the Babri Masjid, 1000 years younger, more sacrosanct than those mosques associated with the Nabi himseld?
5. The objects excavated from the site of the Babri masjid include a plaque with verses written in Nagari script and intricately figures of humans, birds and lotuses. Are these features of mosque architecture anywhere in the world?
It is because Historians and Archaeologists are reluctant to give an honest verdict that the judiciary has been asked to decide.
>> "The behavior/arguments of likes of Anwaar ....."
What an ill-bred and idiotic way to start a comment!
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