There has been a substantial increase in the usage of the term’ love jihad’ in Madhya Pradesh politics between then and now. The Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 last year, which criminalizes “religious conversion by marriage or fraudulent means”.
Consequently, the government has declared marriage solely intended to convert a girl’s religion null and void. This punishment will range from five to ten years in prison, depending on the circumstances. Three a month after the state police cleared an anti-conversion ordinance in Madhya Pradesh to curb what it calls “love jihad,” 21 cases against 47 people had been filed, with 25 people arrested.
The law is often referred to as ‘love jihad’.
On Thursday, Usha Thakur, a Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Minister, described Garba events as a form of love jihad.
A Garba dance is commonly performed in India at festivals and other special occasions. This is a lively, circular dance style with sweeping motions from side to side. A dhol, hand clapping, and dandiya stick are traditional accompaniments for Garba performances. During the Hindu month of Ashvina, the nine-day Navratri festival is celebrated with Garba dancing.
The minister stated it to be a well-known ‘fact’ that Garba pandals have become a major medium of love jihad among individuals and groups alike. Ms. Thakur said that this was both “advice and a warning” that no one should hide their identity when entering a Garba pandal. She made it mandatory for everyone to carry an Identity Card when going to a Garba venue.
The State Cabinet’s Culture and Tourism portfolio head, Ms. Thakur, has been vocal about this issue since 2014. As an MLA, she requested that Garba organizers verify the identity of the people visiting the venues. She claimed that lakhs of Hindu girls had been converted during Garba in the previous years.
The Love Jihad Law
In India, 90% of all marriages are arranged – monogamous, heterosexual, and within a community. It is rare for couples to marry from different faiths. According to a study, just over 2% engage in inter-faith marriages. Hindu groups frequently resurrect the spectre of love jihad to gain political advantage. Indian history is rife with strident campaigns against interfaith unions.
Under the UP Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratidesh Adyadesh 2020 law (prohibition of unlawful religious conversion), also known as the Love Jihad law, a marriage performed with the sole purpose of changing the religion of a girl will be declared null and void. The law has defined fines and penalties under the Love Jihad in three headings. In addition to Uttar Pradesh, eleven other BJP-ruled states have followed the Love Jihad laws that prevent “forced conversions” through marriage.
History of Love Jihad
It is believed that the modern Love Jihad conspiracy has its roots in colonial India. In 1924, a Muslim bureaucrat in Kanpur was accused of “abducting and seducing” a Hindu girl and forcing her to convert. Hindus demanded the woman be retrieved from the bureaucrat’s home. There was even debate in Parliament in colonial India about the abduction of Hindu women.
Pakistan and India split up in 1947 with different majority religious beliefs. As a result, millions of people moved between the countries, and reports of sexual predation and forced conversions were rampant. The Indian and Pakistani governments conducted “recovery operations” for women on both sides of the conflict between 1947 and 1956, recovering over 20,000 Muslim and 9,000 non-Muslim women. These recovery operations mainly focused on bringing back women who had been abducted or kidnapped and ensuring they reached their villages safely. Throughout the decades, this tense history caused repeated clashes between the faiths.
A similar zeal has now marked Independent India.
Love Jihad in Modern India
Essentially, “love jihad” refers to a plot in which Muslim men lured and entrapped Hindu women in a false love trap, with the sinister intent of increasing Muslim numbers at the cost of reducing Hindu numbers to augment their community’s population.
Consequently, the government has declared marriages that are solely intended to convert a girl’s religion null and void. Depending on the circumstances, this punishment will range from five to ten years in prison. Three a month after the state police cleared an anti-conversion ordinance in Madhya Pradesh to curb what it calls “love jihad,” 21 cases against 47 people had been filed, with 25 people arrested.
The politics behind Love Jihad
As a result of the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political party rooted in a Hindu ideology, Muslims have felt marginalization on the ground, online, and in policymaking at the highest levels. The Muslims say that the legislation criminalizing so-called “love jihad” is the latest in a string of policy decisions that disenfranchise the masses.
It is widely accepted that the ruling party in India, the BJP, relies heavily on Hindu votes to win elections. For this reason, it must consolidate a core group of Hindu voters to win elections. As opposed to some Indian parties relying on caste-based vote banks, the BJP’s core base comprises Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers and other individuals who share a fundamental belief in Hindutva, an ideology that seeks Hindu hegemony. Despite asserting that other parties are appeasing minorities, especially Muslims, it has established itself as a party fighting for Hindu rights. This context has spawned and proliferated the love jihad theory.
Specifically, the proposed legislation appears to demonize Muslim men and Muslims as untrustworthy and malicious, enforcing suspicion throughout the nation. The opposition says that it implies that we, as a nation, are engaged in a religious war, even when it comes to intimate relationships, which reduces us to our religious identity. As a result, they are also relegated to second-class citizens, unable to take for granted certain constitutional rights.
The opposition says that dark instincts haunt every society. With the passage of a lie into law, the BJP appeals to these very instincts that have kept India together as a democracy despite all odds and further threaten the lives of Indian women and Muslims.