“Ishq par zor nahin, hai yeh woh aatish Ghalib
Ke lagaey na lagey aur bujhaeyna bane”
(Love is a flame that cannot be controlled, O Ghalib!
You cannot force the flame to be lit nor can you forcefully extinguish it)
Ghalib said what should be said in contemporary India, loud and clear, somehow his exuberant mayhem is extensively losing its democratic importance gradually. In today’s India where freedom is fractured, where saffron forces are openly challenging the constitution, it is necessary to draw a parallel line against the disappearing freedom. Like many other propagandas, the Right-wing has successfully brought a new term ‘love jihad’ against the largest minority in India which is called Muslims. The right-wing from its beginning has been working hard to increase the gap between two communities and in modern days when an educated class of women is getting independent and asking for the freedom of choice, these right-wing institutions are having complex from these women. As a result of this increasing independence and the existing Islamophobia, new plots have been brought and propagated on a large scale.
Harassing Muslims is a part of the right-wing agenda and it is getting worst day by day. Love jihad is a new addition to the existing Islamophobic conspiracy theory. It helps them to ignite the hatred against Muslims and makes it easy to declare this minority a moral-less society. According to hinduismfacts.org Love jihad is “a holy war carried out by Muslim males/females using love as a weapon to marry non-Muslim persons with the sole purpose of converting them to Islam.” The narrative goes on and links it with a conspiracy of another propaganda ‘Population Jihad’, To spread this propaganda on a large-scale multiple channels and modes have been adopted including emotional and aggressive speakers especially for those who can not read. For instance, Vijaykant Chauhan, a Hindu nationalist activist from the city of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh speaks to a local gathering: “Islamic terrorists are using the sacred land of Hindustan, the wealth of Hindustan and Hindustan’s daughters to breed children who are sent to madrasas, trained in Pakistan and turned into more terrorists who want to destroy India” (Sethi 2015). This is the main narrative that has been propagated among the masses as a tool to accomplish the dream of Hindu Rashtra. Now the question arises, is it newly introduced or it has been there for a long time. This term was coined in 2005 by Pramod Mutalik, a well-known Hindu nationalist hardliner from South India as claimed by Sayeed in his article (Frontline, 18 Dec’2020). According to this claim, it took almost 10 years to get this term mass recognition. While Froystaddigs it deep and traces it in the Novel A suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. She refused to accept it as new propaganda in light of this novel and claims that Hindu families have considered Muslims unsuitable as marriage partners long before the love jihad neologism was invented. (Froystad, Kathinka 2021).
The increasing propaganda of Love Jihad is not only distressing Muslims but altogether it is confining women. It gives vigilance power to Hindu Nationalists organizations or groups. The patriarchal system supports this vigilante as it enhances Hindutva masculinity. In terms of freedom, this increasing vigilante is dangerous as it takes away the very rudimentary rights. In a country where the constitution rules and the same constitution under Article 21 allow the “right to the union”, be it physical, mental, sexual, or emotional, this whole propaganda is a violation of fundamental rights. It is an attack on privacy and interference of the state into the sensitive part of life. An individual in such a country should enjoy the fundamental rights as given by the constitution and no vigilance should be allowed in any sensitive aspect like this. The result of this whole chapter of love jihad is chaos, increasing patriarchal practice, and gender inequality. In modern society, gender equality must prevail and it is not possible without letting everyone decide his/her choices freely. This campaign is not only problematic from a minority angle but also a barricade for a feminism lesson.
The trumpet of Love jihad loses its tune when investigated, in most cases, it turns not more than baseless allegations. An investigative report of NDTV on Kanpur’s controversial cases says “Half of the 14 cases the police were investigating in Kanpur have collapsed, and a final closure report has been filed after the police concluded that these were consensual relationships between Hindu women and their Muslim partners” (Nov 28, 2021). A landmark case of Love Jihad was of Hadiya, she was tortured, traumatized, and beaten by her own father. She was 24 when she decided to accept Islam as her religion and that was her constitutional right. But instead of protecting her rights court has ordered the NIA probe and finally, the case went in favour of Hadiya in the Supreme court. That long chaotic period of her life can be presented how this whole controversy has been harassing its ‘own’ daughters, that too in the name of prestige and flimsy glory. Another horrible case was from Moradabad where a woman was hackled by Bajrang Dal hardliners for marrying a Muslim man and converting to Islam with free will. She was humiliated and her video was being circulated and handed over to police along with her husband and his brother. The lady was then sent to a government shelter. Days later this seven-month pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage while in custody. These horrific incidents put a question mark on Devi worshipping India. Women of any caste, creed, colour, or religion should be equally treated without dictating to her what to choose and what not to.
Though Love jihad seems to be a newly introduced campaign, the patriarchy has deeply rooted in this society. The burden of family’s morality has been on the shoulder of women, In the name of caste, status, etc. The choice was always one-sided, where the powerful i.e., upper-caste man can have all that privilege even to have pleasure from a malicha. Premchandhas beautifully and at the same time sarcastically commented on it in his short stories as well as Novels.SahirLudhianvi too wrote many poems on the state of women in the Indian diaspora, In one of his poems he portrayed a clear picture of how women have been treated in India, In one verse he questioned the double standards of men and highlights the exploitation they did to women:
Mardo’n k liye har zulm raw aaurat k liye rona bhi khata
(Every oppression is allowed to men even a cry of women is a crime)
KhapPanchayats on the other hand works as a parallel court especially to set rules for women. These are the champions of so-called moral values, social ethics, and culture and put all responsibilities on women for centuries. These are a few instances in support of an argument that how the power from ancient India has always intimidated women mixing with such religious sentiments because interfaith marriages have been always rare in India. This deep-rooted restriction works as a catalyst to propagate the agenda of Islamophobia with a new wrapper of Love jihad.
Why should we be concerned about this?
As the largest democracy and a secular country, India has a big responsibility of providing equal rights and freedom to every individual within the geographical boundaries. The country specifically defines fundamental rights from articles 12 to 35 and gives complete freedom in his/her personal life. In addition to that, we also have a special marriage Act for inter-religion marriages. After having these privileges if any couple in India faces any kind of threat, then it will be a lack of justice. After the Love Jihad controversy and anti-conversion law Individual freedom is in danger and this should be taken very seriously. It is a matter of concern because freedom is promised by the constitution and if we aren’t free then it is a danger sign. This country is governed by the constitution hence the constitution should be saved, it is only possible when we will start getting all privileges offered by it. The plurality of India should be saved and a clear message should be sent by the civil society against those who hate other shades. It is necessary to counter the Islamophobia among masses through different means that too by the secular people from the majority community. It is necessary to explain why this country needs plurality and why it can’t be painted with saffron colour. A collective Anti Islamophobia campaign should be launched to save the secular fabric of India. We should be remembered by ourselves again and again that any enforced practice can create only a futile society, nothing more.
(Faroagh Ul Islam is a poet, a freelance content writer. He has completed his MBA (H.R) from Aligarh Muslim University and MA (Urdu) from Jamia Millia Islamia. Faroagh grew up in Aligarh.He is a sucker of searching little nuances in life.When he is not reading, He is probably listening Ghazals.You can catch his writings from the sooth of his words with a cup of tea. He can be reached at email@example.com)