New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh ‘love jihad’ ordinance may appear to be the result of the fanning of anti-Muslim sentiments by the current dispensation, but the law is the consequence of years of work by ground workers of Hindutva groups.
Indeed, the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, which came on November 24, 2020, is the product of a long-peddled attempt by groups like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad to popularise the idea that Muslim men ‘lure’ Hindu women through unfair means to ultimately increase the Muslim population in the country.
A case study
Balraj Dungar from Meerut, the state convenor of Bajrang Dal is now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh. He boasts of an incident that had occurred three years before this ordinance was passed when a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl went to get married in a Meerut court. The Bajrang Dal was immediately alerted by an “advocate”, who he says is part of their vigilante network to keep a check on “love jihad” cases. The marriage was stopped midway by zealous Bajrang Dal workers. Upon inspection, they would find that the girl’s body was covered in multiple amulets, or taweez.
“As soon as we got the taweez removed from her arms and legs, she started talking against the Muslim man she was about to marry,” he says. This is one of the many “success” stories, where he could manage to stop an inter-religious marriage of this nature, he says.
“Jihadi people practice black magic to lure our women,” he adds.
Continuing further, he tells The Wire, “Twenty years ago, we didn’t get to know when cases of ‘love jihad’ would occur. Now, thanks to the fact that society has become more aware of the ills of ‘love jihad’ after years of awareness drives by activists like us, we immediately get alerted by sources whenever a Muslim man tries to lure a Hindu woman.”
Another case that he recalls involved a Hindu woman, Radha, who had married a Muslim man, Naeem, and shifted to Meerut from their hometown Bareilly. Their landlord, a “patriot”, Dungar recalls, called him and told them that it was a case of ‘love jihad’, on which he acted fast and “rescued” the girl. He also spoke to the girl’s family and convinced them to file a first information report (FIR) against the Muslim man.
“The people of the society, such as this landlord, are our eyes and ears. We are simply bodyguards…” he remarks.
The reason that ‘love jihad’ is a problem, he says is, “If a Hindu woman marries into a Hindu household, she will give birth to two children. On the other hand, if she goes into a Muslim household, she will have to give birth to at least 10 children. Ultimately, the Muslim population in the country will increase and will take over the nation.”
He says that Bajrang Dal has workers in every nook and corner, village, block and district. There are more than 2,000 members of the Bajrang Dal active in the Meerut district. For any new worker who is inducted into the organisation, a seven-day training programme is conducted to teach ways to stop ‘jihad’ in India and “save Hindus from becoming a minority.”
Amit Bhardawaj from Aligarh has been a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for the past five years. As a young person, he is among the many ground-level workers involved in identifying and stopping ‘love jihad’ cases. Part of his work is also to convince families of Hindu women who have married Muslim men to file cases against the men.
“We have a lot of sources everywhere. Whenever we get any information, we first try and verify the girl’s age. If the girl is a minor, we alert the police immediately and action is taken. If the girl is an adult, we try to reach out to her family and convince them to file a complaint against the culprit who brainwashed their daughter. Sometimes, parents of girls are scared to file a case in the police station or to get involved in a court case. But we tell them this – today it is your daughter, tomorrow it could be somebody else’s.”
Bhardawaj is head of the satsang department of the VHP in Aligarh. Besides conducting religious ceremonies, he also conducts awareness drives among Hindu parents to save their daughters from getting “brainwashed” by Muslim men and marrying them. “One of the most important things is to check their daughters’ mobiles regularly,” he says.
Sometimes, he says that he encounters cases in which the Hindu girl is willing to marry a Muslim man. “In such cases, we try and tell them the consequences of such a marriage. They are too emotional and get tricked easily. They will ultimately suffer, and we don’t want that, so we facilitate their meeting with other Hindu women who have been a victim of this,” he says.
When he gets information from somewhere, the first task is to verify the boy’s name. “We use Facebook and other social media platforms to sometimes check the details of those Muslim men.”
Bhardawaj says that in the past three years, he has successfully either stopped a ‘love jihad’ from happening, or if it has already happened, he made sure to file a case against the man through the girl’s family.
Mayank Kumar, another member of the VHP in Aligarh says, “The government has finally made a law to stop cases of love jihad, for which our workers have been working for many years.”
Kumar has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for 20 years and had joined VHP in 2015. He has been the vice-president of the Aligarh VHP wing for the past two years.
Any worker, when informed about a case of ‘love jihad’ alerts his in-charge who then alerts the police, urging them to take action. But before alerting the police, Kumar says, they verify the case through their sources and sometimes by reaching out to the girl’s family.
“The cases that we alert the police of are never false. We always try and verify them. Mostly, the police cooperate with us and if they don’t, we call the circle officer of the concerned area and it works,” he adds.
In Aligarh district alone, there are about 15 divisions where separate groups of the VHP are active. More than 500 members are part of the VHP in Aligarh city alone, and about 2,000 in the entire district. The details of cases are kept confidential and only discussed with other members in a physical meeting. Members actively avoid using mobile phones or social media apps such as WhatsApp to exchange messages related to such cases.
“Bajrang Dal, being the youth wing of the VHP, is more actively involved in stopping these cases of love-jihad across the state. Our common motto is to protect the Hindu religion. The only country where Hindus are safe is India. Hindus from across the world, especially those in Pakistan, turn towards India for protection. We have to protect our Hindu rashtra for that reason,” Kumar says.
“Kabhi kabhi atankwad ko rokne ke liye talwar ki zaroorat bhi padti hai (Sometimes, to stop terrorists, we have to use violence),“ he adds.
He reiterates that Hindu girls, especially teenagers, are too emotional and can be easily influenced. He hopes that the same law is soon implemented nationwide.
“But I am not against love,” he adds. “Prem karna ghalat nahin hai (it is not wrong to love).”