The myth of love jihad

In its orchestration and inflammatory appeal, the current campaign shares similarities with Hindu revivalist projects in the 1920s in UP.

Written by Charu Gupta | Updated: August 28, 2014 8:00 am
Perhaps inter-religious marriages can be a way to produce cracks in orthodox Hindu mandates. Perhaps inter-religious marriages can be a way to produce cracks in orthodox Hindu mandates.

By: Charu Gupta

“Love jihad” — a term floated by some Hindu organisations — has got firmly fixed on the agenda of the RSS and its rightwing affiliates like the Dharma Jagran Manch, even though the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP has formally dropped the phrase from its political resolutions. The last month has witnessed an aggressive, systematic campaign around “love jihad”, and in the coming days there are plans to hold continuous “awareness” rallies in UP against this alleged movement to forcefully convert vulnerable Hindu women to Islam through trickery and marriage. Portentously, this present movement has an uncanny resemblance in its idiom, language and symbols to an “abduction” and conversion campaign launched by the Arya Samaj and other Hindu revivalist bodies in the 1920s in UP, to draw sharper lines between Hindus and Muslims. This historical dimension brings out in sharp relief the orchestrated and fabricated nature of love jihad.

Romance, love and marriages, particularly those cutting across caste and religious boundaries, have always implicitly challenged certain customs and norms, and aroused deep passions. Simultaneously, religious conversions have traditionally been, and continue to be, one of the common expedients of those on the margins of Hinduism to reject hierarchies and reconfigure social boundaries. The inter-meshing of romance, marriage and conversions has often produced increasing worries, deeply politicised representations and everyday violence, framed around the bodies of women. When Hindu assertion reaches new heights, as happened in UP in the 1920s, and again is happening in the present scenario, the Hindu woman’s body particularly becomes a marker to enthrone communal boundaries in ways more aggressive than before.

The 1920s in UP witnessed a flurry of orchestrated propaganda campaigns and popular inflammatory and demagogic appeals by a section of Hindu publicists against “abductions” and conversions of Hindu women by Muslim goondas, ranging from allegations of rape, abduction and elopement, to luring, conversion, love and forced marriages, although the term “love jihad” was not used at the time. Drawing on diverse sources like newspapers, pamphlets, meetings, handbills, posters, novels, myths, rumours and gossip, the campaign was able to operate in a public domain, and to monopolise the field of everyday representation. Pamphlets with provocative titles like “Hindu Auraton ki Loot”, which denounced Muslim propaganda for proselytising female preys, and “Hindu Striyon ki Loot ke Karan”, an Arya Samajist tract showing how to save “our” ladies from becoming Muslim, appeared at this time. The love jihad campaign of today, too, is using similar tropes.

The tales of the 1920s and of 2014 have certain common strains. Both campaigns are critically tied to a number-crunching politics and claims of Hindu homogeneity. In 1924, a pamphlet titled Humara Bhishan Haas, published from Kanpur, constructed a picture of the terrible calamity of declining Hindu numbers due to increasing conversions of Hindu women to Islam. It claimed that a number of Aryan women were entering the homes of yavanas and mlecchas, reading nikah with them, producing gaubhakshak children, and increasing Muslim numbers. Hindu organisations of today, too, have claimed, without any evidence, that forced conversions of Hindu women in the name of love are part of an international conspiracy to increase the Muslim population. The issues at stake here are not only to construct a picture of a numerical threat from Muslims but also to lament the supposed decline in the number of Hindus and mourn the potential loss of child-bearing Hindu wombs.

Campaigns like this are also predicated on exclusionary principles, which survive through constant and repetitive references to the aggressive and libidinal energies of the Muslim male, creating a common “enemy other”. They underwrite an exclusivist grammar of “difference” in the intimate regimes of love and marriage. Simultaneously, images of the passive, victimised Hindu women at the hand of inscrutable Muslims silence and erase female subjectivity and desire. Any possibility of women exercising their legitimate right to love, choice and conversion is marginalised. In June 1924, in Meerut, handbills and meetings claimed that various Hindu women were being lured and their pure bodies being violated by lustful and sexually charged Muslim men. The present campaign too, while focussing its anger on the Muslims, derives its emotional impact from the victim. It is impossible for Hindu groups to conceive that a Hindu woman can voluntarily elope or convert. While each case of violence against women, structured by larger patriarchal structures, whether within or outside a community, has to be trenchantly condemned, in this case every romance, love, elopement and marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man is also rewritten by Hindu organisations as forcible conversion. There appears to be a consensus among Hindu groups against any exercise by women to convert as individuals, sans familial and community approval. Perhaps it might be better to see these women not so much as “vulnerable victims”, but as “risk-taking subjects”.

It is also assumed that the mere act of marrying and staying with a Muslim ensures that the woman is leading an unhappy and dreadful life. Fears of elopements and conversions also show the need felt not so much to protect the “Hindu kanya”, but to facilitate the domination of disciplinary regimes over a woman’s actions and choices. Such actions by women produce daily policing and everyday violence along the alliance model of sexuality, where, through the arrangement of marriages, relations and boundaries of religion are policed. Invocations and related concerns with Hindu female purity allow Hindu male virility and prowess to reassert itself.

As in the 1920s, today again conversions of Hindu women are represented as a general phenomenon. Different events are made to appear as following a similar pattern — a narrative of luring by a Muslim male in the name of love, and of Hindu female victimhood. Hate speech is repeatable speech, drawing its strength from stereotypes. In replication and reiteration lie its strength, its ability to renew itself and its authority as supposed truth. In the love jihad campaign, representation, performance and events feed into each other, providing one of the primary sources of communal power.

Moreover, in comparison to the 1920s, new dimensions have been added to the love jihad issue. In the wake of terrorist threats and Muslim fundamentalism, anxieties have been created of a global Islamist conspiracy and foreign hand in such conversions. It appears that when confronted with the phenomenon of conversion from Hinduism to Islam, especially by Hindu women, certain kinds of Hindus lose their logical faculty. The politics of cultural virginity and a myth of innocence are combined with a perceived “illegitimacy” of the act, leading to rants of violation, invasion, seduction and rape. These politicised entanglements generate an “intimate politics”, an embodied struggle, in which Hindu communal agendas are reformulated through women.

Besides, such a hate campaign, while providing glue for claims to Hindu homogeneity, also underwrites certain fears and anxieties of some Hindu organisations. For all its limitations, some of these women are “breaking rules” through the highly ritualised act of individual religious conversion, guided in many cases by inter-religious romance and love marriages.

These localised and embodied practices of women can be a strategic manoeuvre with social ramifications. Ambedkar upheld inter-caste marriage as one way to annihilate caste, since it produced fissures in the maintenance of caste purity and control over women’s sexuality. Perhaps inter-religious marriages, too, can be a way to produce cracks in orthodox Hindu mandates and create ripples in codified definitions. Such an exercise of choice, even when partial, can perhaps also aid a transformative politics of intimate religious rights.

The writer is associate professor of history, University of Delhi

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  1. N
    neha sood
    Aug 8, 2016 at 1:36 am
    its rly nyc.
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    1. G
      Gaurika Pal
      Feb 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm
      Love Jihad: Reality or fiction- As the issue of “Love Jihad” came under intense media scrutiny in India, several more cases were being reported & published in newspapers over the next few days. NM6bPUDI
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      1. G
        Gaurika Pal
        Feb 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm
        NM6bPUDI
        Reply
        1. G
          Gaurika Pal
          Feb 19, 2015 at 5:51 pm
          Love Jihad Reality or fiction NM6bPUDI
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          1. A
            Arya
            Jan 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm
            there is no myth of love jihad many muslims do this but not all
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            1. A
              aks
              Aug 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm
              Forcibly converted Muslims will one day join the ISIS and come for the writer and her progeny in due course. She may happily jump over and convert!!
              Reply
              1. K
                Kollaparamban
                Aug 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm
                Manikandan, you are trying to spread false information about Kerala. The experience of Kerala is just opposite to what you said. No wonder, as you have written,'I have not read the article, but I know'. The same thing happened with the case of Kerala Love Jihad. You just heared about the issues from some fabricated portals, which were taken up by some media. There was a proper inquiry which concluded that Love Jihad was fabricated and there is no base. If you know reading please try to read and try balance yourself.The same thing is happening in the case of UP. False allegation, baseless commentaries and people who do not the ground realities and the conspiracies of the radical elements, the enemies of the state, fall prey to this rumors and grow suious to each other.My humble request is that we should not waste our time in this sort of spreading mistrust. Rather let us move together to build up a nation which has all potentials to be one of strongest and most developed society.
                Reply
                1. K
                  Kollaparamban
                  Aug 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm
                  Raj, Where do you live? You are again making incorrect statements against DGP.Do you read newspapers?You can read the old editions online if you know how to have it.see for instance:Kerala police have no proof on 'Love Jihad'Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 11, DHNS:There is no organisation in Kerala whose members lure girls by feigning love with the intention of converting them into Islam, according to Director-General of Police Jacob Punnoose.:www.deccanherald/co...
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                  1. K
                    Kollaparamban
                    Aug 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm
                    Thanks Charu Gupta for your interesting and timely article. You have rightly invited our attention towards the realities behind the so-called Love Jihad. It is high time for intellectuals like you and the academia to come forward to fight against the antagonistic communal propaa taken up by some political parties as a major strategy to win majority votes and by media to increase their circulation.I will accuse the intellectuals of Kerala for their failure to reflect upon what happened in the case of much publicized Love Jihad. The true story was that There was proper inquiry into the allegation made by some radical hindutva writers about the Love Jihad. But the committee found no base for such allegation and the report concluded that the Love Jihad was completely a fabricated news item. As the inquiry and the report were not publicized much, the same incident-allegations are happening in UP and no doubt to spread to other parts.My humble request to the balanced Indians is to stand up and speak against this sort of hate-mongering. Let us think for a while, what we have to earn after making each other suious and fighting each other. We should not waste our resources by engaging ourselves in baseless allegations and fruitless discussion. Rather we should engage ourselves in the nation building process which can not be fulfilled without setting up our mind towards the rights of the individuals for an inclusive citizenship.Once again I appreciate you Charu for this wonderful article. Hope you will not listen to the already communalised/brain washed hate mongers.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kollaparamban
                      Aug 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm
                      What is the finding? you know?The inquiry report concluded that Love Jihad is a fabricated story and there is no base. The allegation was not proved. Even some of the magazines carried the item about it apologised for what happened- that is mindless copying and pasting of the stories without verifying it.
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                      1. I
                        Indian
                        Aug 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm
                        Inter caste and inter religious marriages are different phenomenon like comparing apples with oranges. In Islam or Christianity it is compulsory for other religion spouse to be converted before marriage so socially dangerous especially with increased fanaticism in even educated youths & huge funds inflow from Wahabbi fundamentalist countries of Middle East-sure recipe for disaster!
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                        1. I
                          IndianWellWisher
                          Aug 29, 2014 at 11:40 pm
                          Acid test! Excellent point, that is the only time they will realize the 'potential' of horror of their academic theories!
                          Reply
                          1. I
                            IndianWellWisher
                            Aug 29, 2014 at 11:33 pm
                            Excellent comparison - jeans, genes and purdah.
                            Reply
                            1. I
                              IndianWellWisher
                              Aug 29, 2014 at 11:32 pm
                              Good Re-education of the overeducated women who comments freely on the exploited one. She must be married to a non-Hindu and this is a self-justification, perhaps? We have seen Arundhati Roy behaving similarly and soon I found out that her mother is Christian.
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                              1. J
                                Jey
                                Aug 28, 2014 at 9:35 am
                                Jihadists and secular militants may require brain transplantation.
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                                1. R
                                  Raj
                                  Aug 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm
                                  The author is unaware of ground realities. In late 90's and early 2000, I have seen poor Muslim boys on flashy motorbikes, given to them by Saudi money , loitering near schools and trying to attract young Hindu girls. These young girls without realizing the grave consequences got attracted to these Muslim boys and some of them later converted and got married. After the first child, they were ill treated and beaten due to cultural differences . These girls now could not go to their parents as they were shunned. Moreover as they didn't finish schooling , we're not able to get jobs to support themselves. Finally they were forced to remain as the forth wife of that Muslim and satisfy the list of those men and become child bearing machines
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                                    Abhay Maheshwari
                                    Aug 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm
                                    In 1920s there was an infamous movement called Khilafat. What happened during Khilafat movement is not to the liking of the Marx-Mullah historians so that movement has been wiped out from history. But now history is repeating itself with the international level rise of the muslim fundamentalist forces, ISIS being the most ominous new addition, are again aspiring for Khilafat. Their methods have not changed over 1300 years. It is the same deceit, force, terror all over again.
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                                    1. K
                                      KAG
                                      Aug 28, 2014 at 4:48 am
                                      Any analysis or discussion of Love Jihad ends up by obfuscating real issues, without throwing up a kernel of clarity or relevance. What this journo has written in high sounding prose as if she were personally affronted, is no different from dozens of other pieces which are biased, one sided and loaded in favour of a particular community, which is never known to play by the rules. Love is fine as an emotion, but when a sick, secular media overlooks the role of FANATICAL MULLAHS AND MAULVIS in promoting the enticement, rape and conversion of unsuspecting Hindu girls, then it does become a sinister conspiracy, which must be put down with a firm hand.The campaign is not just confined to western UP, but has also struck roots in a CHRISTIANIZED KERALA where church fathers have teamed up with their ideological opposites, the Hindu organizations, to fight this evil. Well doented reports from Gujarat have shown how MUSLIM teenagers have ensnared and impregnated HINDU girls by pretending to be Hindus, especially during the Garba festival, until it was put down by the locals. THE Sikhs in the United Kingdom have come together to expose these muzzies who have been seducing Sikh and Hindu girls.
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                                        Rahul Adak
                                        Aug 30, 2014 at 2:12 pm
                                        Good essay...I mean comparison is not bad being the same Hindu orthodox bodies operating in different names today...but let m tell u miss charu Gupta after love jihad originated in Kerala and its rumours r spreading around the entire nation while the 1920s movement was pan India Hindu revivalism...and jihad as a name was absent during those times i.e 1920s...well Muslims as a body are always known to be having a treacherous and vile personality so ur article is always gonna be criticised...and the ground reality is completely different even if its mere propaa which is what u r arguing..still I agree that some incidents have been fabricated...yet Muslims as a character everybody knows and being a history graduate I know it far better then u..jai hind..may the truth prevail.
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                                          Gwen Stacy
                                          Aug 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm
                                          IB is dealing with the concept of '' love Jihad '' . Ergo , this is a matter of national security . Journalist links with Arab nation should be probed . When Syria was burning in civil war then Al Jazeera use to send female journalist for obvious reason for Jihadi . Al Jazeera use to enforce '' their journalist '' NOT to report their rape .
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                                            A
                                            Aug 30, 2014 at 6:52 am
                                            It appears that neither the author nor the indian express is at all interested in truthdian Express have deliberately not published and withheld my comments about the article and its author making facile and intellectually dishonest arguments because it does not gel with the falsehood which they are propagating.Being truthful is pe, shame on you Indian Express.
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