' Love Jihad ' : Communal Myth Recycled

Recently, Bajrang Dal leaders of Mangalore beat up three young Muslim men who were found travelling with some Hindu girls, claiming that these boys were a part of the ‘love-jihad’ racket and ‘our girls’ have to be ‘protected’ from the terrorists. The RSS propaganda machinery has been aggressively pushing the story that professional ‘jihadis’, many a times from across the border, are out there plush with foreign funds to lure innocent Hindu girls into converting to Islam, marrying them, and producing four children to be used in the ‘Jihadist’ project; over 4000 Hindu girls have been lured into conversions, according to them.

Even the Courts have given credence to the Sangh propaganda. High Courts of Kerala and Karnataka, in different habeas corpus petitions, have directed the state administration to investigate the alleged ‘love jihad racket.’ In one case, the Karnataka High Court discounted the statement by the 23-year-old software engineer Siljalraj that she had gone with Azghar of her own accord, and has said that the case had “national ramifications… concern security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women”! The Kerala Court has even written to the Home Ministry at the Centre to take due care as this project has national security ramifications.

These court rulings were preceded by an order from the Congress-led Maharashtra Government for a CID investigation into all marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men. This order was in response to a demand made by two BJP MLAs who smelt a “conspiracy to increase the Muslim population” in the growing incidence of such marriages in the state’s rural areas. This order was later withdrawn as a result of protests.

For groups like Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene, the court verdicts are a heaven-sent opportunity to unleash violence on the Muslim community and intensify moral-policing of women. Sri Ram Sena has actually declared the formation of a band of 6000 goons who will keep an eye on activities of young Muslim boys in places like ice-cream parlours and cinema halls. This, when the highest officials of the police have made categorical statements both in Kerala and Karnataka that there is no evidence pointing to any such racket. Then what is the hype all about?

The RSS has a time-tested penchant for peddling myths and using rumours to fan communal tension. “Love Jihad’ is nothing but a figment of communal imagination to be used to tighten patriarchal controls and create a fear of the ‘other’. No fascist project can be complete without tightened control over a woman’s body, her sexuality and agency, which makes for ethnic, cultural, racial and national purity. Women’s bodies, for them, represent porous borders – and the ‘love-jihad’ project is part of the project of sealing borders.

‘Lustful’ Muslims: ‘Innocent’ Hindu girls

Creating a bogey of Muslim men out to seduce Hindu women is an age-old Hindutva project. The Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS set themselves the task of creating a mythology beginning with Allauddin Khilji to the present times about forceful abductions, rape conversion of Hindu women – all towards mobilising Hindu masculinity to ‘protect the honour’ of the community, whose central signifier was a Hindu woman. Her body was seen as a potential site of sexual and religious defilement by the lustful Muslims.

In 1924, an Arya Samajist brought out an Urdu booklet titled ‘Rangila Rasul’ (The Playboy or The Debauched Prophet). This booklet was a perverse and fantastic detailing of Prophet’s sexual life and tastes. The booklet opens with the lines:

“If someone is out of sorts, marry her!/To light an extinguished lamp, marry her!/If she is a beauty, marry her!/She has a treasure, marry her!/Let the flowers in the garden entice the bulbul/I am enticed by my Rangila Rasul’.

By vilifying the prophet an attempt was made to portray the entire community as lustful, perverse. This booklet created a lot of controversy, the writer was killed and the booklet eventually banned by the British Government. Even then, pamphlets were circulated issuing warnings and instructions to Hindu women. They were advised not to let any Muslim selling bangles inside the house, not to approach any Muslim for help even if you are lost.

Let us not forget that in the wake of the Gujarat carnage the propaganda mills spun rumours that Muslim boys were luring adivasi girls. The BJP during the last assembly elections in UP had distributed CDs that were carefully engineered to create the bogey of the ever-deceitful, violent, anti-woman Muslim youth whose main agenda is to coerce, deceive and rape gullible Hindu women. Prior to their pub attack, the Sri Ram Sene in the Dakshina Kanada district had indulged in innumerable attacks on Muslim and Hindu men and women who befriend each other – one young 15-year old schoolgirl even committed suicide after public humiliation by the Sene.

‘Dying race’: another age-old RSS formula

Besides creating this image of lustful outsiders there is repeated evocation of visions of a shrinking Hindu population. Hindus as a ‘dying race’ are pitted against an exponentially growing Muslim population. Anshu Malhotra in her historical work describes how the Shuddhi and Sangathan programmes launched by the Arya Samaj in Punjab embodied anxieties about the supposedly dwindling numbers of Hindus.

The Gujarat carnage witnessed horrors like ripping wombs of pregnant Muslim women with trishuls because these wombs would produce ‘terrorists’. Narendra Modi’s ‘hum paanch hamare pacchhees’ plays on the same theme, as do the call by Sadhvi Rithambhara and Uma Bharati to Hindu women to produce more children.

The ‘love-jihad’ propaganda reproduces the exaggerated notion of Muslim population growing to overtake Hindus, with its claims of ‘forced conversion’ of Hindu women who will then ‘produce four children.’ The BJP MLAs of Maharashtra made this precise point when they demanded investigation into cases of Muslim men marrying Hindu women, which they claimed was part of a conspiracy to ‘increase Muslim population.’

But the question remains, how are communal fascist forces able to garner support for such actions and propaganda? This is mainly because in wider society, too, there is great anxiety over woman’s autonomous sexuality – as expressed by the phenomenon of ‘honour’ killings, khap panchayats etc. This is why even some Christian groups in Kerala have unfortunately reacted to the communal bogey of a “Love Jihad” by echoing the VHP and warning Christian families to guard their ‘wards’ more closely.

The ‘love jihad’ theme of the RSS seeks to combine two agendas of the saffron brigade: the agenda of moral-policing and that of communal witch-hunt of Muslim youth by branding them as terrorists. The women’s movement faces the challenge of taking the saffron propaganda head-on and defending women’s rights and the civil liberties of minorities.

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