‘Love Jehad’ is a new phrase coined by the Sangh Parivar – that is being echoed in courtrooms and cabinets across the country. The Sangh Parivar has claimed that thousands of Hindu girls are being lured by Muslim boys into conversion to Islam and recruitment into ‘jehadi’ outfits. And what is extremely worrying is that the Kerala HC, Karnataka HC and even the Maharashtra Government have expressed the same sentiments.
The Kerala HC made its comments on ‘Love Jehad’ in the context of two cases where Hindu women had eloped to marry Muslim men. The women’s parents had filed complaints claiming the women had been abducted, and the Kerala High Court ordered them to stay with their parents for a week. At the end of the week one of the women had given a statement claiming she had been brainwashed into adopting Islam and shown ‘jehadi’ CDs. Based on this single statement, the Kerala HC chose to order the Kerala Government and the Union Home Ministry to probe what it alleged was a nationwide ‘Love Jehad’ racket.
Following this, the Karnataka HC passed similar observations in the case of a 23-year old woman civil engineer who told the Court clearly that she had converted to Islam of her own accord and wished to marry her lover Ashgar and live with him. The HC chose to suspect the veracity of the woman’s statement, ordered her to stay with her parents, and ordered a probe by the Karnataka police saying the matter had ‘national ramifications concerning security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women.’
Earlier, the Congress-NCP Government of Maharashtra had passed an order to investigate into every case of Muslim men marrying Hindu women, alleging a trafficking racket, but had to withdraw this probe in the face of protest.
The Kerala State DGP has submitted a report to the Kerala HC declaring that there is no evidence of any ‘Love Jehad’ movement anywhere in the country. Karnataka’s Dakshina Kanada district police has also busted the myth of ‘Love Jehad.’ Recently when Anitha (22) went missing in June this year, Sangh Parivar organisations claimed that she was forcibly converted to Islam by a Pakistan-backed, professional ‘jehadist lover’. The police, however, established that Anitha was poisoned to death by Mohan Kumar, a serial killer arrested on October 21, who allegedly confessed to having murdered her and robbed 17 other women by luring them with offers of marriage. A top police official told an English daily: “By cracking the Anitha case, we hoped to put an end to this ‘Love Jehad’ controversy once and for all….certain fundamentalist groups that have been carrying out vigilante attacks against inter-community couples for several years have now started using the ‘Love Jehad’ theory to justify their attacks.”
Let us recall that in innumerable cases of inter caste/inter religious marriages, where the girl has voluntarily married, her parents have falsely accused her of being an “abducted”, “brainwashed” minor, and have pressurized her into denying the relationship. Nari Niketans in every city are full of adult women imprisoned for months because their parents have accused them of being minors; the Nari Niketans separate the women from their husbands but freely allow their own parents to meet and coerce them. In the Nitish Katara case and Rizwanur Rehman case, the girls (Bharati Yadav and Priyanka Todi) eventually refused to complain against their fathers and brothers, even after overwhelming evidence that their lovers had been killed or forced to commit suicide in cold-blood. The Kerala and Karnataka HCs has absolutely no right to order adult women to stay with their parents; statements taken by such women in forced parental custody are certain to be taken under coercion, and the Courts are highly irresponsible to make such statements the basis for sweeping orders that perpetuate communal myths without a shred of evidence. Such “enquiries” into every marriage of a Hindu man with a Muslim woman – be it by Courts or the Maharashtra Government –violate the Constitutional right to privacy and choice in matters of marriage, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, and upheld by numerous Supreme Court verdicts.
Let us also remember that the Sangh Parivar leader Babu Bajrangi of Gujarat boasts of having ‘rescued’ thousands of women who have married outside the caste or community, and forced them to give up their husbands. Sadhvi Pragya’s organization too used to indulge in the same activity. And the Sri Ram Sene in the Dakshin Kanada district has indulged in innumerable attacks on Muslim and Hindu women who befriend each other – one young 15-year old schoolgirl even committed suicide after public humiliation by the Sene. The Courts’ observations provide a shot in the arm for the Sri Ram Senes and Babu Bajrangis – they can now claim their attacks on women are acts of ‘nationalism.’ We wonder why neither the Courts never pass orders to ban Khaap panchayats and the Sri Ram Sene; why Courts never order enquiries into suspected cases of honour killing, but the same Courts are so eager to fan up communal and anti-women flames by making irresponsible comments about ‘Love Jehad’?
‘Love Jehad’ is a communal fantasy – a new pretext to attack the freedom of women to love and marry by choice, and to witch-hunt Muslim men. In the name of ‘Love Jehad,’ every Rizwan-ur-rehman can be branded a terrorist; every Priyanka’s right to choose can be denied on the grounds that she is ‘brain-washed’ by jehadis; every police officer as well as every Pramod Muthalik justified in harassing the Rizwans and Priyankas in the name of ‘national security.’
Women all over the country will certainly defy and resist any attempt – be it by Court or any government to police their freedom, or to bring their loves and marriages, irrespective of community, under any scanner.
Kavita Krishnan is Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association - AIPWA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org