New Delhi: In response to a request made under the Right to Information Act, the National Commission for Women has revealed that it does not maintain data on “love jihad” cases, throwing its own earlier claim in this regard into question.
On October 20, the chairperson for the NCW, Rekha Sharma, met with the Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Among the issues the two discussed, according to a tweet posted by the official handle of the NCW were “rise in love jihad cases.”
While this tweet itself was widely criticised, it coincided with the discovery of tweets defamatory to women, made from the account of chairperson Sharma. As the Aam Aadmi Party raised a cry for her removal, Sharma, claimed that her Twitter handle had been “hacked,” deleted the tweets and made her account a private one.
Amidst the outcry over Sharma’s own tweets, the fact that the NCW was officially raising the claim of “love jihad” – a phrase the Sangh parivar coined to describe an imaginary Muslim conspiracy to convert unsuspecting Hindu women to Islam – garnered comparatively fewer comments.
“Love jihad” is not a term officially recognised by Indian law. Stranger still was the fact that Sharma had met, of all people, the Maharashtra governor over this claim. The same governor had hurried a dawn swearing-in of Fadnavis’s government last year and had, more recently, chided the state chief minister for having become ‘secular‘ over temple gates remaining closed in view of the health crisis.
Sharma, reportedly, made comments to reporters too after the meeting. The Times of India reported that “highlighting a distinction between consensual inter-faith marriages and love jihad, Sharma said the latter required attention. She, however, did not provide any data to show the rise in love jihad complaints in the state.”
Saket Gokhale, a social activist, filed a petition in the Bombay high court, requesting Sharma’s removal as chief of NCW, arguing that the “NCW is meant to be an independent body for protection of women’s rights, and its chairperson engaging in such blatantly communal and divisive discourse casts aspersions on the body’s ability to act in a non-partisan and secular manner.”
On Monday, November 16, Ashoka University professor Aniket Aga tweeted that in reply to an RTI request, the NCW has said that it does not maintain figures for “love jihad” cases.
— Aniket Aga (@AgaAniket) November 16, 2020
While Aga has redacted information what could identify the person who had filed the request, the document is signed by the relevant Central Public Information Officer. With no figures released by NCW to bolster its chairperson’s claim, the RTI reply suggests Sharma’s line on “love jihad cases” in Maharashtra “rising” was driven by politics and not evidence.