New Delhi: “It is certain that India will have a Muslim prime minister in 2029. Do you think that your politicians who cannot say a word against Muslims will save you?” asks Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, chief of the All India Sant Samaj and mahant of the Dasna Devi temple, Ghaziabad. The protest was organised in the memory of the 1966 anti-cow slaughter agitations. However, the topic quickly shifted to ‘jihadist threats’, population control and love jihad.
Narsinghanand went on to say: “Now, you are talking about cow protection, then the cow will only be their food, but your women will be sold in their markets. This community (Hindus) could not keep itself free for even 70 years. And you want to protect the cow! If the cow is holy to you, then why are you waiting for a law? Why are you waiting for a law for your daughter? Those who are harming our women, catch them and start killing them. Then they will ask for a law! And start increasing your population! Then they will ask for the population control bill. If the cow is our mother, then why would the law punish them! Are we hijras (eunuchs)? If the cow is your mother, then take your own revenge. Eat those who eat the cow. The only way we can protect ourselves is by giving birth to more children. And these children should be given some weapon training too!”
This is a translation of the Hindutva activist’s anti-Muslim tirade, part of a 12-minute-long video that has gone viral on Facebook with over 2.7 million views, 94,000 likes, 41,000 shares and 18,000 comments.
In the video, posted recently by a right-wing portal, Khabar India, Narsinghanand openly calls for anti-Muslim violence at Jantar Mantar, Delhi. In one instance, he taunts Hindus, accusing them of not following their icons. “Muslims follow Mohammad and that’s why they are raping your women and eating your cow. It will stop once you start following Ram.”
This video’s content is nothing new for the radical preacher. Narsinghanand openly proclaims in several other viral video commentaries that his raison d’etre is to annihilate Islam from the face of the Earth. According to him, Hindus need to establish a nation without jihadists, mosques and madrasas. His notoriety amongst far-right Hindutva extremists, particularly in western Uttar Pradesh, is so high that they describe him as the ‘Wirathu of India’. Wirathu is a Burmese Buddhist communal monk who is often in the headlines for his inflammatory and genocidal comments against Rohingya Muslims. Narsinghanand’s videos appear on a channel called Narsinghvani with 2.4 lakh subscribers. He regularly appears as an expert on communal debates (on topics like ‘love jihad’, ‘conversion jihad’) on Sudarshan TV and News Nation.
What was new this time, however, was that his call for violence was made at Jantar Mantar, right in front of a detachment of the Delhi Police and barely a few hundred metres away from the where the Delhi Police’s new headquarters is being readied.
In the past two weeks, several protests took place across the country on the issue of ‘love jihad,’ a conspiracy theory conjured up by Hindutva organisations according to which there is a Muslim plot to turn India into an Islamic state by getting young Muslim men to seduce Hindu girls. At least three such agitations took place at Jantar Mantar and India Gate. And at all these assemblies, various speakers made anti-Muslim speeches and raised inflammatory slogans.
Following the horrific murder of a Hindu woman, Nikita Tomar, by a Muslim man in Haryana’s Ballabgarh last month, right-wing groups and a section of the media have begun raising the ‘love jihad’ bogey again and polarising India on the issue. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s speech was the green signal for these mobs. He threatened those who “played with the honour” of “sisters and daughters” by concealing their identities and operating secretly. Adityanath declared, “If they do not mend their ways, then they should get ready for ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’ (a reference t0 funeral processions)’”. Many Hindutva activists present at these protests have showered praise on Adityanath for his resolve to fight ‘live jihad’.
On October 29, a group of protestors at Jantar Mantar gathered to protest Nikita Tomar‘s gory murder. One far-right YouTuber popularly known as Hindu Sher Boy posted a video from there. In the video, several Hindutva activists including Ragini Tiwari can be heard raising inflammatory slogans like, “Jab Mulle kaate jayenge, tab Ram naam chillayenge (When you strike Muslims, you will hear them call Ram’s name)”, “Mulle ka na qazi ka, ye desh hai Veer Shivaji ka (This is Shivaji’s country, not for Muslims)”. Ragini Tiwari is the same woman whose provocative videos inciting anti-Muslim violence went viral during the Delhi riots.
The YouTuber goes on to incite Hindus to pick up arms and unleash violence against those who dishonour Hindu women. Children as young as 12 were present at the protest and were actively raising these slogans.
Protest at India Gate
On November 1, another protest against love jihad was organised at India Gate. The protest had been called on live television by Sudarshan News’ editor, Suresh Chavhanke. The police told the protesters that Section 144 had been imposed at India Gate, proibiting gatherings of five or more people. The Hindu activists who gathered were asked to shift to Jantar Mantar – the designated site for demonstrations – but they kept up their protests.
“Shoot the jihadi pigs, shoot the jihadi dogs, shoot the bastards, shoot the traitors, shoot them, shoot them,” the crowd shouted. “Hindustan mein rehna hoga toh Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga (If Muslims want to remain in India, they will have to chant Ji Shri Ram).” At one point, the group abused a Muslim passerby with communal slurs.
After a scuffle, protest continues at India Gate
When the Delhi Police tried to force the protestors on to police buses, a scuffle broke out between the protestors and the policemen.
Strangely, most detainees, including Suresh Chavhanke, were released elsewhere at India Gate. But then Chavhanke alleged that a man in civilian dress had assaulted him during the scuffle. Later, he and other protestors began saying that the man was a Muslim. And finally, they claimed to have ‘confirmed’ through a Google image search that the man was Sarfaraz – a Muslim.
The Delhi Police in a Twitter thread called these allegations baseless. According to the Delhi Police, no such person was posted at India Gate.
Are police, Facebook complicit too?
The Wire contacted the Delhi Police to ascertain if an FIR had been lodged against the protesters for making an open call to violence, especially at Jantar Mantar. The Delhi Police PRO asked this journalist if anyone had filed a complaint. But when he was asked if the police were not duty-bound and empowered to act if somebody provokes violence, he did not reply.
Apart from Narisnghanand’s viral video, another hate video on love jihad was posted by Kapil Gujjar, the radicalised man who shot at Shaheen Bagh protestors earlier this year. All this raises serious questions on Facebook’s hate speech policy and algorithms. Facebook has still not removed these videos.
Recently, Mark S. Luckie, a former Facebook employee, told a Delhi government panel about Facebook’s complicity in the large scale communal violence in Delhi after the assembly elections earlier this year. Despite multiple reports, Facebook failed to crack down on hateful content, he said. Apart from having the ability to take down or delete content, Facebook can interfere with what people see and what they don’t, he noted. It changes its algorithm, allows certain content to stay up and be taken down.
Sophie Zhang, another former Facebook employee, had raised the alarm in her 6,600-word memo about a network of 1,000 individuals who were trying to influence the Delhi elections. She quit her job due to the guilt of having “innocent blood” on her hands.
“I worked through sickness to take down a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election,” she had said in her memo. Facebook neither publicly disclosed this network, nor did it stop them.
Recently, a top Facebook India official, Anki Das, came under huge public scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal had revealed that she had interfered in the application of Facebook’s hate speech policies to controversial politicians and influencers affiliated to the ideology of the ruling party. Even if their comments spread fake news or incited violence, Facebook did not remove them. Das recently left the organisation.
Conspiracy theories and disinformation
We spoke to multiple Hindutva activists who had gathered to protest love jihad at India Gate to know more about the issue.
“I have 10 Muslim friends who have more than one name. When they go out to see a Hindu girl, they use a Hindu name to trap her,” one man claimed.
Many protestors suggested a ban on religious conversions and interfaith marriage as a solution to stop this ‘malaise’. Another set of protestors proposed capital punishment as the only remedy. “Our girls are naïve. They get caught in their love trap. We need a law to stop such marriages.”
“Hindu women should pick up weapons against those Muslims who cheat them,” said Kamlesh Rathore, a Hindu Yuva Vahini activist.
“Do only Muslim men cheat?” we asked.
“Yes, our Hindu boys do not do that,” she replied, after an inconvenient pause.
“As long as there are Muslims and jihadists in this country, we are not safe. We have just two options. We need to pick up arms and teach them a lesson, or else we shall face our doom. Just like Muslims, we need to attack even the police and army if they try to stop us,” said a young man.
“I will tell you how they catch our girls. Everyone knows that Islamic countries fund them. They have 12 or 13 children. And obviously, more children mean more working hands and more income. They use this money to buy expensive gifts and bikes to attract women. Our girls do not want to go to the temple and know about our religion. That’s the issue,” said Sagar Malik, a protestor at India Gate.
Are we ignoring the signs ?
In the past, a similar propaganda campaign had been carried out against Black men in the US in the name of miscegenation, the pejorative term used for inter-racial reproduction. It led to rampant mob violence and lynchings. The propaganda of Rassenschande (race defilement) against “Jewish men conspiring against German women” brought the dark Nuremberg race laws into existence and eventually led to the holocaust. The propaganda of love jihad is no different from the Nazi Rassenschande or the white supremacist fears of ‘miscegenation’. N.C. Asthana, a retired Indian Police Service officer, has warned that love jihad is a ploy to disenfranchise Muslim men from social life. According to Professor Gregory Stanton, an expert in genocide studies, such constant dehumanisation – in which an entire community of minority men become suspect and ridiculed as savage animals – indicates an alarming stage of genocide.
The silence of the state and the law enforcement machinery in the face of calls for genocidal violence has presumably encouraged these radicalised groups. And now, with four states announcing their intention to bring laws against ‘love jihad’, violent vigilantes are likely to feel even more emboldened.