|Artist: Liz Boldero
‘Love Jihad’ and honour killings are strategies to quell challenges to caste, class and gender conventions.
By Neha Dixit
Love Jihad is a theory propounded by rightwing Hindu fundamentalist groups who claim that Muslim men seek to wage jihad by making Hindu women fall in love with them and marry them, so as to convert them to Islam. In 2006, Babu Bajrangi, then a prime accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots’ Naroda Patiya massacre case, issued a pamphlet on behalf of his trust Navchetan. It stated, “If you rescue one girl, it is the same as saving 100 cows. One daughter equals 100 holy cows.” Bajrangi said the mission of this organisation was to ‘rescue’ all Patel girls who married outside their community. He confessed to using force to rescue young girls who married Muslims.
In August 2014, a young boy, Kaleem was accused of Love Jihad when a video of Shalu, a girl from Sarawa village in Meerut, UP, went viral. She alleged that she was raped by Kaleem and others in the village madrassa. She also claimed that she had been impregnated during the incident and had to undergo an abortion because of which she bore surgical marks on her body. Kaleem, along with the Muslim sarpanch of the village and six others were arrested. The girl later confessed that she was in love with Kaleem, who was her boyfriend, and that her parents had forced her to frame him when they came to know of this. It was also revealed that there was an ongoing dispute in the village about the gate of a mosque that had been replaced with a larger, more ornate one by the new Muslim sarpanch. The surgery marks on the girl’s body turned out to be from an operation to abort an ectopic pregnancy, to stave off the ‘shame’ of premarital sex.
There is also the question of property rights for women in inter-faith and inter-caste marriages. During the General Election campaigns in 2014, Lalit Maheshwari, the head of the rightwing Hindu organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Muzaffarnagar unit, mentioned in an interview with this reporter, “We are against (the) right to ancestral property for women because we anyway give them dowry.” This patriarchal mindset towards women and property rights is evident, both in the Love Jihad theory and the rise in honour killings in India.
In a later interview, Rina told me, “I told my parents that I only used to talk to him on the phone sometimes. We were not planning to run away or anything. My father didn’t listen.” The tenants have gone back to paying INR 8.5 per unit to Avtaar Singh.
Published by the Himal Southasian, December 2015 issue