Holier than thou poll war

Love Jihad

By Poonam I Kaushish

In this heated poll season, India is once again caught in a battle royale between the Gods, another Love Jihad (LJ) which is raising temperatures. LJ, a convenient political tool and de rigueur wrapped in welfare schemes and development that helped bring BJP to power at the Centre twice over. Whereby, ishq-mohabat-shaadi cutting across caste and religious boundaries inter-meshed with forced conversions churned the political cauldron resulting in an unholy clash between the ‘holier than thou’!

The latest Love Jihad outcry has its genesis in murder of a Karnataka college girl by her former classmate in Hubballi which has ignited a political firestorm in the State, with the girl’s family alleging the accused had been pressuring her to religiously convert and marry him. Naturally, the BJP termed it a case of ‘love jihad,’ hitting out at the Siddaramaiah-led Government, accusing it of playing politics of appeasement at the expense of law and order. With the ruling Congress staunchly denying the allegation, asserting “it was a mutual relationship.” Thereby, reopening the can of worms of the old familiar enemy, country wide.

Resulting in the Hindutva brigade bandying Bahu-Beti Bachao Sangharsh Samitis and unleashing an aggressive, systematic campaign to create “awareness” and combat LJ with the BJP being the driving force behind anti love-jihadists legislations across States ruled by it. Wherein, any action taken against the perpetrators is justified, even if it means taking law into their hands. Said UP Chief Minister Yogi, “those who conceal their identity and play with the honour of our sisters and daughters, if you don’t mend your ways, your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey (final trip) will begin.”

Congress accuses BJP for engineering Hindu majoritarian communal style of politics by using tactics like attempting to electorally marginalise Muslims to patronising communal violence, especially around the emotive ‘love jihad’ issue and bringing anti-conversion laws in States ruled by it.

The BJP retaliates by blaming Congress and its State Government of failing to take action against the Muslim boy slamming it as a ‘Muslim Party’ part of the “tukde-tukde gang” which protects terrorists and follows politics of appeasement “working on Pakistan’s agenda.”

As for other Opposition Parties despite taking the Hindutva brigade to task over their anti-minority plank and opposing aggressive Hindutva consolidation, they do not want to be labeled as “pro-Muslim.” Reading the ‘Muslim mind’ as an anti-BJP phenomenon on which they base their political strategy.

Who does one fault? Given our netas have perfected intemperate language to inject poison in society over the years. Alas, politics has meandered into narrow confines of polarisation and appeasement rhetoric, rabble rousing abusive, devoid of any substance, spreading hatred but also tilted towards widening the communal divide pitting Hindus against Muslims.

All to sway sentiments before elections in all religions whereby every Party is stoking the fire, hoping it would gain dividends underscoring the games politicians play at the altar of political expediency. To keep their gullible vote-banks emotionally charged so that their own ulterior motives are well-served.

Undeniably, post its defeat in the State Assembly polls, BJP is using its new Hindutva rajneeti post Ayodhya consecration and Hindu cultural renaissance to make inroads into areas and regions even with little or no significant minority presence as it revolves around its pet slogan Sab Ka Saaath, Sab Ka Vikas, Sab Ka Vishwas es baar 400 paar. Yet it realizes the ‘Muslim mind’ is still problematic.

Last year various right-wing outfits undertook Hindu Jan Akrosh rallies to press for laws against ‘love jihad,’ ‘land jihad’ and ‘Hindutva is in danger’ card. Opposition Parties accuse the Saffron Sangh of playing out divisive issues: how Muslim population’s growth rate threatens the primacy of the “Hindu” nation with a cynical eye on electoral gains. Notwithstanding, this dog whistle politics spells bad news for communal harmony.

Not many are aware the LJ programme started in 1996 with blessings of some Muslim organizations in Kerala, though the term was first heard in the State’s Pathanamthitta district in September 2009 and used in a Kerala High Court judgment three months later. Dubbing it ‘an alleged Muslim plot to forcefully convert young brilliant Hindu girls to Islam by having Muslim boys entrap them in love affairs’, it asked the State Government to consider enacting a law to prohibit such “deceptive acts of LoveJihad”.

Notwithstanding denials by Islamic fundamentalist outfits like National Democratic Front (NDF) and ‘Campus Front’ of Popular Front of India (PFI), the Kerala Government said that 2,667 women had converted to Islam in the State since 2006. Police figures on the other hand total over 8000 conversions in the last four years alone. Add to this another 60,000 girls have been converted in Karnataka alone according to the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.  In the last six months  UP registered over 20 LJ cases.

Turn North, South, East or West, the story is the same. Religion is turning out to be a question of money, big money. Recall, flush with funds from their headquarters in the US, a number of church groups allegedly converted hundreds of Hindus to Christianity in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Kashmir and Karnataka by giving them money and jobs in the decades post Independence.

On the flip side, the VHP and Bajrang Dal too established groups of armed youth, called Raksha Sena, in every village of Chhattisgarh, in order to stop conversions to Christianity.  And where conversions had taken place another movement called the Ghar Wapsi (“Return Home”) was launched in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Orissa for reconverting the tribal Christian back to Hinduism.

To put an end to this five States: Rajasthan, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat have enacted anti-conversion laws that bar conversions but allow re-conversions to Hinduism. Jharkhand has declared its intention to enact a similar law.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court settled this matter in 1973 wherein it distinguished between the right to proselytize and the right to convert. Upholding the Constitutional validity on anti-conversion laws enacted by Orissa and Madhya Pradesh in 1967-68, it ruled: “What the Constitution grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenders.” The Court also observed that organized conversion was anti-secular and that respect for all religions was the essence of India’s secularism.

It is time now for our leaders to spare a thought for all those who have lost their lives in the meaningless Love Jihad over the years and delink religion and divisive grammar from politics, consider a ban on divisive politics and open a “mohabbat ki dukan in a nafrat ka bazaar.”

Importantly, they need to understand that by playing Hindus and Muslims against each other they are only serving their vested interests. The aim should be to raise the bar on public discourse, not lower it any more. Parties and fringe elements need to realize the collateral damage it causes will be permanent. Neither Lord Ram nor will Allah forgive the polity for playing havoc in its name.

Let us not reduce LJ to a political gimmick. Our leaders need to do a cost-benefit analysis and put a stop to converting religious gush into political slush. True Love Jihad, anyone? —  INFA