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Rohit Dhankar

Published in Deccan Herald http://www.deccanherald.com/content/429358/is-love-jihad-real.html

The RSS has been raising the issue of Muslim men converting Hindu women to Islam through marriage in a planned manner as part of their strategy to increase Muslim population in India. They raise this hype under an emotive slogan of ‘love jihad’; an oxymoron of a name if there really is such a strategy. Because jihad is an all-consuming total war against the infidels, has no place for love. What is being referred to as ‘love’ here is perhaps ‘love’ feigned with malicious intentions. So why then the RSS is propagating this misnomer? But then, the RSS was never known for accurate use of language or literary brilliance.

Be what it may, they are bent upon creating a hype around this so called love jihad, and the secularists are simply dismissive it. Some have expressed their view on social media saluting the ‘love jihadis’; and I am sure they must have their reasons for their cheers for them, while others simply invoke the Indian Constitution ─ all adults have freedom to marry whomsoever they want. On one side is the Sangh brigade preoccupied with making a hype of this issue, and on the seculars and political parties dismissing the very existence of any such phenomenon.

Neither of the stances mentioned above help one getting clearer on the issue. If an ordinary citizen wants to sense this war of words, how can one about it? I will outline one commonsense possibility below.

Are more Hindu women marrying Muslim men than Muslim women marrying Hindu men? This should be the first question in tackling this controversy. The evasive responses like publishing lists of well-known Muslim women who have married Hindu men are not effective. Simply because there is an equally long list of Hindu women who have married Muslim men. One needs to ask the RSS and BJP if they have any data to substantiate their claims. So far the only data that we have comes from Kerala where the CM has stated in the assembly: “[A]mong those converted to Islam during 2009-12, as many as 2667 were young women of which 2195 were Hindus … As against this number of young women converted during 2009-12 to … Hinduism were … two.” If we are to take these data as correct, then the instances of conversion through marriage and romance cannot be simply dismissed. Unfortunately, we have no data from UP which is at the centre of the controversy at present. However, RSS can claim that the issue when first raised in Kerala got immediately dismissed. Data came into picture later, we are facing a similar situation in UP. Given the communally sensitive situations in UP, many might buy RSS’ argument.

But does that mean that there is an organised effort from any section of Muslim community? Does that also mean that a systematic forcible conversion is involved? The police investigation reports in Kerala and Karnataka do not endorse any such claim. If the RSS has any credible evidence they should place it for public scrutiny. So far no such evidence is presented. Therefore, their ranting against the Muslim community for their organized effort at present seems to be baseless.

However, there may be people in the Hindu community who may get worried about the phenomena of Hindu women in recognizable numbers marrying into Muslim community. They need not be necessarily communal for holding such a view. Even if there is no ploy or an organized trick, they might think that this phenomena will have long term social and political ramifications against the interest of the Hindu community. All religious communities tend to get uneasy when sizeable numbers of their community members convert to other religions. Therefore, a non-threatening simple expression of the concern cannot be condemned.

Even if such a concern by community may be legitimate, the response from RSS in this case is inappropriate and dangerous. Theirs is not a simple non-threatening expression of concern. If it were, they would have been analysing the socio-economic conditions within Hindu community rather than spreading ill-will against the Muslims. Many of young women might be marrying Muslim men because of high demand for dowry among the educated Hindus. Or maybe the young Hindu women no longer bother about religion and are looking for suitable life partners. Also, there is a possibility that there are not enough educated Muslim young women for educated Muslim men, so they are looking for equally educated life partners elsewhere without any conspiracy and maliciousness. Or it might simply be a matter of Hindu girls exercising their choice in a secular democratic country. None of these factors can become a basis for spreading anti-Muslim sentiment or blaming them.

Till they have solid evidence, then, the RSS will do better to concentrate their energies in reforming their own community. i.e Hindus. They can well begin with doing away with dowry, respecting their women better, allowing them to marry men of their own choice rather than forcing them into marriages with men chosen by their parents.

But the RSS does not seem to be willing to analyse the cultural practices and conventions within the Hindu community itself. Instead they seem to be obsessively driven by the hatred towards the ‘other’ and the desire to consolidate patriarchal control over the young Hindu women. Both these motives can be very effective in a region which already is extremely sensitive on the issue of patriarchal control over all community members and is also reeling under communal tension. The idea of loss of women to the ‘other’ in a community that has a macho image of itself, right or wrong, and has been traditionally sensitive regarding ‘protection’ of women, is highly incendiary. And it seems that is what the RSS is gunning for. The canard needs to be countered by engagement, not by dismissal.