Lucknow: Contrary to the polarising campaign carried out in the name of ‘love jihad’ by the Uttar Pradesh government and chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a ‘special investigation’ launched by the UP Police into allegations of allurement and forced conversion of Hindu women has turned out to be a damp squib. The official report – submitted to Kanpur inspector general of police Mohit Agarwal on Saturday – has concluded that the majority of Hindu-Muslim romance cases probed were consensual.
All 22 police stations in Kanpur city were asked to report suspicious instances of Hindu-Muslim romance but only 14 cases eventually emerged, which the special investigation team probed.
The SIT’s report, which The Wire has accessed, concludes that in eight of the 14 cases, the Hindu women had either married Muslim men or been with them of their own free will. In six cases, the FIRs registered are still being investigated, though in one of those cases the accused Muslim man has been released on bail, presumably because of lack of evidence.
In a country where daughters who marry men against their parents’ will – even of their own religion – are often pressured to return home and file cases of kidnapping or harassment against their husbands, the SIT’s failure to establish a compelling and exclusive pattern of ‘Muslim coercion’ is a setback for the politicians who had ordered the ‘love jihad’ investigation.
‘Love jihad’ is the term invented by Hindutva groups to describe an imaginary conspiracy in which Muslim men seduce Hindu women with a view to converting them and eventually turning Hindus into a minority in India. In recent months, the term has been aggressively deployed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliated organisations across the country,
While the chief ministers of Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have promised to bring laws to combat this supposed conspiracy, Adityanath has been one of the most vocal BJP voices against ‘love jihad’. At an election rally in Jaunpur recently, he threatened death for the young men “who play with the honour of our sisters and daughters”.
However, a top police official in UP who spoke to The Wire this week on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the ‘love jihad’ phenomenon in the state has been hugely exaggerated.
What the police probe found
In September, the eight-member Kanpur Police SIT probed 14 cases in which Muslim men allegedly married Hindu women and forcibly converted them or had developed ‘love relations’ by deception.
The SIT was formed after Hindutva activists met the Kanpur IGP to complain about incidents of ‘love jihad’. Hindutva groups got into the act after reports of a Kanpur woman, Shalini Yadav, marrying a Muslim man emerged. Though she denied the claim that she had been forced to convert to Islam and even recorded a video to make this clear, her mother claimed she had said so under “pressure” and the UP government decided to order a probe.
The SIT contacted all police stations across Kanpur to identify and investigate every allegation of forced conversion involving Hindu women. Two months later, the investigation has been completed and a final report has been filed. When The Wire contacted SIT in-charge Vikas Pandey to discuss the findings of his report, he said, “The report is for the government, not journalists.”
His reticence may be linked to the SIT’s conclusions, which are sharply at variance with the political hype surrounding ‘love jihad’.
In eight of the 14 cases probed, the women openly declared that their relationships with the accused were consensual and based on love. Six of these involve marriages with Muslim men, while two were confined to what the police report calls “love relations”.
One of these two women apparently told the police that she had had ‘love relations’ with a Muslim man but that was because the man had promised to marry her.
In the six cases where a nikah, or marriage according to Islamic rites, took place, the police treated the husbands as accused persons but was unable to produce evidence that the women were converted forcibly and not out of their own desire to get married.
One of the women was quoted as saying there was a love affair between her and the accused, and that she knew him from much before. Another woman confirmed to the police that she had consensually gone with the accused, made physical contacts and decided to marry him of her own free will. In a statement, a third woman said that there was no pressure on her to marry the accused and she had gone to him on her own. Another woman said that she had had a nikah with the accused of her free will. The report notes that three of the women clearly added that the allegations mentioned are false.
Six cases to be prosecuted, but doubts remain
Of the 14 cases probed, only six have been identified by the police as suspicious. The SIT report says that the said women have “validated” the claims made by the complainants of the FIR, who are, in most cases, either the brother or father of the woman.
Of these, one involves an accusation of rape, two are of marriage where the man used a false name, one is an alleged kidnapping, one is of intimidation and one of a boy romancing a girl on the telephone using a fake name.
In the last case, the girl told the police she used to talk to a boy called Babu on the phone. But one day he took her to a mosque and asked her to convert to Islam, which she refused to do.
In the two cases of marriage under false pretences, the police said that the accused men had befriended the women using Hindu names. In one case, the police said that the accused had married the woman without revealing his religion, and told her about his religion only after the marriage was consummated. The accused had married the woman in court with false documentation, the SIT report says.
In one of the six cases, the accused used to threaten the woman and do “bad deeds” on a goods carrier truck, the police has said.
In another one of the six cases still being probed, the police have invoked IPC sections 360 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc). The complainant, Rahul Srivastava, the woman’s brother, says in his complaint, “Saath kaam karne waala ladka…bhaga le gaya hai (A man who worked [with his sister] has eloped with her).”
Though these are serious charges and carry a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment, the accused in this case, Shahrukh, is now out on bail. According to a friend of the accused, he was released within a month of his arrest as no evidence was found against him. This casts doubt on the authenticity of the six criminal cases that have been registered.
Speaking to The Wire, Shahrukh’s advocate, Azra, said that it was far from being a case of “love jihad” as it was projected.
When The Wire tried to contact the woman – whom the SIT report claims has “validated” the complainant’s version – her brother picked up the phone and refused to let this correspondent speak to the woman. “My sister had been indoctrinated by the boy,” he said.
When asked for more information on this case, Naubasta Police Station SHO Kunj Bihari Mishra said that he doesn’t “remember details of the case”.