“Love is divine. It has no barriers of religion, caste or creed. But under the pretext of love, there cannot be any forcible, compulsive or deceitful conversion. It destroys the divine and sublime love”

                     Justice KT Sankaran in a Court Order on “Love Jihad”

Sandhya Sharma (name changed) who had filed a divorce petition against her husband Bazzu Akbar Usman Pasha was abducted by the latter, held captive for nine days and tortured brutally. Sandhya managed to escape from his captivity and with the help of her family got herself admitted to a hospital. Doctors found around hundred razor blade cuts on her body including the face. According to the Police complaint lodged by her, she was being forced by Usman to convert into Islam to which she refused. This was certainly not what Sandhya had bargained for when she married Usman after an affair which started with a Facebook interaction.

Considering the stigma attached with inter religion marriages, Sandhya was lucky to have her immediate family stand by her. Deceived by their “lovers” and disowned by immediate families for having brought shame to them, many others would have simply made their peace by converting to boy’s faith- Islam. This sordid saga is the precise story of Love Jihad. The intent of these Romeo Jihadi  is clear from the start. They try to lure young girls by faking religion neutral names such as Pappu, Raju, Monu or Bunty. Some others are further daring and go for outright Hindu names. Like predators on prowl, they roam around colleges and girls’ schools looking out for vulnerable targets. Many have the Hindu sacred thread tied on their wrists. Their true Muslim identity is revealed to the girls only after the boys are sure that the girl is at a point of no return.

Some do walk out of the relationship but many carry on because in the orthodoxy of society the situation becomes a fait accompli for them. It is on this helplessness which is the playfield of “Romeo Jihadis’. That the cases where girls choose to stay with the boys do not become news is obvious to understand. But there are occasional cases where the girls feeling cheated report the matter to Police. The Kharkhaunda incident in Meerut and the case registered by national level shooter Tara Sahdev against her husband Rakibul Hasab are two such recent cases. In Tara’s case, Rakib impersonating as Ranjit Kohli married her as per Hindu rituals. It was only during the month of Ramzan that she came to know of his Muslim identity. Tara claimed that she was being pressurised by some twenty of Rakib’s acquaintances to convert to Islam.

It is not my case that all marriages between Muslim boys and Hindu girls are essentially a case of Love Jihad. It will be abhorrent for me to see social pressures coming in the way of inter religious marriages but the fact that aggressive wooing bordering on predacious, with a clear intent to convert does exist.

Though various state governments have denied the existence of an organised Love Jihad, the issue has cropped up at administrative, political and judicial levels. In “Shahanshah and Sirajuddin” vs “State of Kerala”, the Division Bench of Kerala High Court, directed the Director General of Police to investigate and submit a report on “Love Jihad”. Justice K T Shankaran quotes the report filed by DGP in his order dated 09/12/2009 as follows “I have examined the eighteen number of reports produced in the sealed cover. Fourteen out of the eighteen reports are cryptic… Three out of eighteen reports provide some details. One report says about the functioning of an organization called “Smart Front” in two colleges.”

“Another report says that the enquiry by the Special Branch reveals that fundamental outfits like NDF, PFI, Campus Front has (sic) roots in the college campuses in the city referred to therein. Referring to Campus Front, it is stated in the report thus (sic): ‘As per the available information, the plan of this organization is to trap brilliant upper caste Hindu and Christian girls from the well to do family (sic), especially those who are studying for professional courses and employed in IT sectors’. It is also stated in the report thus (sic): ‘It is believed that Muslim Organisations like Muslim Youth Forum and Muslim Women’s Organisations like Thasreen Millat, Shaheen Force, Popular Front of India, National Democratic Front and its students organizations like Campus Front are the organizations behind the so called Love Jihad movement’ (sic)”

Justice Sankaran concluded that there were enough indications of forceful conversions through “Love Jihad”. He asked Kerala government to consider enacting a law against forced conversions and DGP Jacob Punnoose to continue with further investigations. Interestingly, just after eight days another High Court Judge Justice M Shashidharan Nambiar stayed all investigations into “Love Jihad” stating “criminal justice was being taken for a ride and that the investigations targeted a particular community.” At the same time there was another inquiry ordered by Karnataka High Court. I am not aware as to whether any report has been submitted to the Court. Quite interestingly the Investigating Officer in Meerut rape and conversion case had also revealed that Sanaullah, the main accused was preaching “Love Jihad” in various Madarsas and Mosques.

Several senior IPS officers and politicians have expressed their concerns over “Love Jihad” and it is not that the saffronites or Christian priests alone are complaining. CPI (M) MLA KK Latika and former Communist Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achutanandan have voiced their concerns explicitly. Achutanandan accused the PFI of planning to Islamize Kerala with money and marriages. He accused the organisation, which was involved in the chopping off of a college Professor’s hand, of trying to multiply Muslim numbers in the state “by influencing youth of other religions and converting them by giving money, marrying them to Muslim women and thus producing kids of the community.”

Honestly Achutanandan kind of speak is part concern and part alarmism. Also it will be an exaggeration to say that “Love Jihad” has the potential to alter demographics and but it is nonetheless a fanatic zeal rooted in . It is an affront to the right to a life of dignity which Article 21 of the constitution promises. Whether or not Love Jihad is an organised exercise is also irrelevant. Even isolated cases are an abuse if the intent is solely to convert. The tortures in cases cited above show that love in “Love Jihad” is merely a pretext and that conversions are the aim. It is also clear that the conversion motives of a Romeo Jihadis are not just societal but also religious. This is borne out by the fact that even in many of the cases where the girls chose to stay with the boys against the wishes of their families; they recorded statements in front of Police and/or testified in courts that they were subjected to religious sermons and discourses by sundry acquaintances including Mullahs and Moulvis. Other than the communal flare ups and religious cleavage these acts have caused, a number of girls from coastal Karnataka and North Kerala are reportedly missing (Karnataka BJP MLAs Mallika Prasad and Deputy speaker N Yogish Bhat in Assmebly). Their whereabouts are not known. Nobody knows if they are even safe or not.

There has been a clamour to deny “Love Jihad” by pseudo secular media, intellectuals and activists. In the “Shahanshah and Sirajuddin” vs “State of Kerala” case itself a Human Rights organisation called “Association for Human Rights (AHR’) filed a criminal miscellaneous application to direct prosecution to drop the word “Love Jihad” from its contentions. It also sought a ban on the usage of the term by media. The judge refused to grant them any relief saying the exercise was in the realm of possible and a matter of Police investigation. It is the same exercise in denial we are witnessing of late in which media personnel are jumping to give clean chit to accused in Meerut case and casting aspersions on the integrity of Meerut victim and Tara Sahdev. It is worth remembering that the same pseudo secular bunch till date doesn’t concede that terrorism in India has anything to do with religion.

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Vikas Saraswat

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