In the midst of the Dadri lynching controversy, and BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som addressing a gathering in Basera village calling for prosecution of the "cow slaughterers", Cobrapost in collaboration with online news portal Gulail.com has brought out clinching evidence against Som, an MLA from Sardhana in UP, for inciting communal tension and using public support to mount pressure on police in the Hindutva organisations' fight against Love Jihad.
The undercover investigation, codenamed, "Operation Juliet", collected evidence against several leaders and workers of the BJP, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It caught on camera many lawmakers including Union Minister of State for Agriculture- Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, BJP MLA Suresh Rana and BJP MP Hukum Singh, admitting to instances of filing fake rape and kidnapping cases against Muslim youth and using emotional blackmail and physical force against women to give false statements against their Muslim lovers or husbands.
Incidentally, the investigation did not find a single case of a woman who the Sangh claimed to have rescued, admitting to being a victim of Love Jihad.
In addition to the use of foul play to rescue the so called victims of Love Jihad, several in the Hindutva brigade including BJP leaders Sanjeev Baliyan and Umesh Malik admitted to their involvement in the Muzaffarnagar riots. Sangeet Som too has been indicted for involvement in riots and currently has many FIRs pending against him.
The investigations were conducted over a year across Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Most stories are of women who were "forced by Muslim men" to marry them. The Hindu right wing groups have claimed to have used both emotional and physical abuse to convince the women to leave their husbands, who are sometimes also forced to abort children from their marriages for which their "rescuers" have select doctors. "We tell the women that those men are Muslim and will never settle for one woman whereas a Hindu boy will automatically be sent to jail for doing so," claims Som while being interviewed with a hidden camera.
Professor Apoorvanand Jha of the Centre for Advanced Studies in India considers this phenomenon a slow but increasing stronghold of Hindu right winged groups on the country's politics. "The RSS and the Sangh Parivar have formed a winning strategy of equating Hindu women with everything pious, making them a vessel to forward the Hindu movement," he says.
What is even more surprising is the brazenness the Hindu leaders display on being asked about their roles in the fight against Love Jihad. "When Cobrapost called the MLAs to confirm their stories and claims, they did not hesitate in admitting to their roles even once. It shows how the sects are becoming less and less afraid of being prosecuted for the things they do in the name of religion," says Anirudhha Bahal, Cobrapost's Editor in chief.
The RSS has over the past few years used many slogans against Love Jihad. Since the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 where the sparks of Love Jihad first came about, the RSS and VHP have used several tactics to avoid Hindu women marrying Muslim men. The Beti bachao, bahu banao Andolan was the most successful. "The fight against Love Jihad is not only to do with keeping Hindu daughters within the community but point to a larger issue of class and property also," says Neha Dixit, a reporter who has covered the Muzaffarnagar riots extensively. "The beti bachao andolan also talked about a movement against Hindu women's right to family property," she adds saying that any form of property transfer to the Muslim community is perceived as an imminent threat by right winged Hindu organisations.
Almost all women interviewed and chronicled in the Cobrapost investigation claim that they were not influenced under Love Jihad. Several have changed their statements in court about being forced by their husbands or boyfriends soon after they were released from a close watch of the RSS. The fight against Love Jihad has evolved as another way to reinforce a patriarchal system by Hindu extremists who have used religion to achieve their goals.