Let’s Talk About Love, Jihad and Love-Jihad

In Shakespearean world, love was bounded by society, status and class. In Orwellian world, citizens were withdrawn from freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom to live. Astonishingly, Hindutva world possesses all the above qualities, just it lacks the beautiful literature.

Illustration: Saurabh Singh

India, currently, is dealing with a moral crisis. Bestowed upon by the governing party, the Hindutva nationalist BJP, it is almost toxic to love, live and succeed amidst the growing intolerance on the grounds of religion. In the Shakespearean world, love was bounded by society, status and class. In the Orwellian world, citizens were withdrawn from freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom to live. Astonishingly, Hindutva world possesses all the above qualities, just it lacks the beautiful literature.

Uttar Pradesh, the death bed of democracy under Adityanath’s rule, has passed a communal bill which specifically targets Muslims and more so Hindu women. Let’s call spade a spade. The bill which criminalises interfaith marriages is not only unconstitutional but also anti-woman. It deems that women are not capable enough to choose their right partners, making the patriarchal and male dominant society even more powerful. It furthers the BJP/RSS agenda to felonize the minority; which actually is 14 % of India’s population. A conspiracy theory — Love Jihad — is toxically romanticised by right-wing Hindu men while working on the ground for the ruling government. UP police have already begun cracking down inter-faith marriages, sending the Muslim males to jail alleging that they lure Hindu women into forced conversion. Not only UP, but four other BJP governed states are mulling over enacting the draconian law.

Going with the statistics, interfaith marriages are very uncommon in India. Most of the people marry in the same caste, leave aside religion. The false narrative of Muslim men deliberately marrying Hindu women to in-turn convert them to Islam has negligible backing of any proofs or examples. The law, in fact, gives power to the police authorities in UP, who have actually failed to control the “real crime” rate, to barge into marriage ceremonies of consensual adults and put the groom in jail. This malevolent law which only serves one purpose — target the Muslims — also directly violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private”.

Pinki, now known as Muskan Jahan. Photo: Video screengrab.

The state terror has increased at an alarming level. Take in the case of Rashid and Pinky. As soon as the police authorities were notified by the violent political arm of BJP, Bajrang Dal, about their interfaith marriage, Rashid was immediately taken under custody and Pinky, who was later sent to a “shelter house”, suffered a miscarriage. A viral video of Pinky screaming at the authorities — wanting her freedom back, wanting to exercise her free will to marry whoever she wants, explaining that she is a 22-year-old young woman who has a right to love without any bounds, is doing rounds on Twitter timelines. The miscarriage can easily be called as state murder.

Forced conversion is illegal. The involved parties should be punished, but so as the authorities who are involved in forced banning of consensual marriage and conversions.

And as usual, this news didn’t reach people because the mainstream media’s job is to suppress the wrongdoings of BJP and attack the opposition. Meanwhile, they debated over a scene in Netflix’s latest drama A Suitable Boy (Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair). Members of BJP were outraged over a scene that shows Muslim boy kissing a Hindu girl in a temple.

The characters Kabir Durrani (played by Danesh Razvi), and Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) in Mira Nair’s adaption of A Suitable Boy. Photo: Milan Moudgill/BBC/Lookout Point

A BJP leader went ahead and filed an FIR against the makers of the series claiming that it hurts “religious sentiments”. The FIR was nothing but an act of intolerance in the garb of raging Islamophobia. It even stirred the debate over Love-Jihad. For fascists, hate speech is freedom of expression ( Delhi riots controversy) but a Hindu-Muslim kiss in a television show (A Suitable Boy controversy) show is love jihad. And in between all of this, the right-wing propaganda has already become a vigorous law.

The case of Akanksha Sharma is something to look upon to. Akanksha Sharma, 31, a Hindu, in an interview with an international publication, spoke of the difficulties and trauma she faced in trying to marry Mohammad Abdul Suaib, 34, a Muslim, in 2015, against the will of their families. After escaping from her family, who had taken her prisoner, the couple had to move cities and jobs to find a registrar.

“Many people, including members of my family, were telling me that I was a victim of love jihad and were expecting my husband would force me to become a non-vegetarian or convert me forcibly,” said Sharma. “It has been five years and still people call or message me to see if I have been forced to convert and if the jihad has happened. It is a myth, there is no jihad in love.”

Activists in Bangalore on December 1 hold placards during a demonstration condemning the proposed passing of laws against “Love Jihad.”

A simple google search of words tells us the stark difference in love, Jihad and love-jihad. Love (although a difficult phenomenon to define) is an intense feeling of deep affection. Jihad, in Islam, means struggle or effort. But it has taken another meaning altogether in popular culture of the world media and especially hardline right-wing groups. They consider jihad to be a “holy war”. Mix the two, and it just doesn’t make sense.

The divisiveness has taken all shapes and forms. It has inflicted industries, societies, family parties, friends get-togethers and even paid newsrooms. Finally, they had to attack the Advertising. Tanishq’s Diwali ad which was supposed to be a message of inclusiveness, love and secularism, was soon turned into a “love-jihad” agenda. Tanishq withdrew the ad at the end, but the repellent reactions were worrying.

All narratives, Twitter hashtag protests and forced law enactments are just contributing to BJP’s ground agenda — create a Hindu nation. A nation which is devoid of democracy, one of the founding principles in the Indian constitution. This decade was a decade of protests. This law requires the same amount of pressure from the citizens as it did with the passing of Citizenship Amendment Act or the very recent, the farm bills. BJP, having the majority of seats, cannot demolish the metaphoric statue of love, peace and harmony. It has to stop and we are answerable to the next generation.

Writer, Columnist & Filmmaker.