Law of unfreedom

Written by Christophe Jaffrelot

November 26, 2020 3:34:27 am

The notion of “love jihad” first appeared in Gujarat in 2007, previous to resurfacing in 2009 in Kerala and in Karnataka.

“Love jihad” is hitting the headlines once more, however this outdated wine seems right now in a unique bottle, because the BJP is taking up from vigilante teams.

The notion of “love jihad” first appeared in Gujarat in 2007, previous to resurfacing in 2009 in Kerala and in Karnataka below the auspices of Pramod Muthalik, a former RSS member who based his personal vigilante group, Sri Ram Sene, and who outlined it as follows: “In love jihad, fanatic boys are encouraged to attract young Hindu girls outside ice cream parlours, schools, colleges and theatres … This is an organised effort to demoralise the Hindu community”.

This rhetoric got here out in public in 2014. In September of that 12 months, a couple of months after Narendra Modi was voted into workplace, two weekly magazines by the RSS, Organiser and Panchjanya, devoted their cowl tales to “love jihad,” the latter exhibiting the picture of an Arab carrying a keffiyeh and darkish glasses beneath which learn the title, “Pyar andha ya dhanda?” (Is love blind or is it a enterprise?).

In response to “love jihad”, the Sangh Parivar launched a counter-offensive to forestall younger Hindu ladies from being wooed by Muslim males. They shaped particular teams, such because the Hindu Behen Beti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. Activists supplied to assist dad and mom who lamented their daughter’s marriage to a Muslim and developed a community of informers in police stations and courts the place dad and mom may go to report a lacking daughter, file a grievance for abduction, or to maintain abreast of a case. This community of informers signifies the diploma of osmosis that exists between the state equipment and the Sangh Parivar.

Once on a case, warriors in opposition to “love jihad” resort to techniques starting from disinformation to intimidation to coercion. Parents of women who select to enter right into a love marriage with a Muslim don’t hesitate, typically, to show to Hindu vigilante teams to carry their baby again into the fold. But organisations within the Sangh Parivar orbit have additionally sought to forestall interfaith marriages even when dad and mom weren’t opposed. Not solely have the police typically annulled marriages (in complete disregard for the legislation when the bride and groom are each of age), but it surely has additionally let Sangh Parivar (or affiliated) brigades stalk interfaith marriages during which the bride is a Hindu.

The judicial equipment has additionally contributed to this vigilante agenda, as is obvious from the case regarding Hadiya, a younger Hindu lady of Kerala who had transformed to Islam in 2015 and married a Muslim man in 2016. Her dad and mom petitioned the court docket, claiming she had been forcibly married and transformed, regardless of her insistence that she had acted of her personal free will. The state’s excessive court docket sided with the dad and mom, invalidated the wedding in May 2017 and positioned Hadiya below their guardianship, arguing that this “vulnerable girl” had most likely been the sufferer of Islamist teams. Her husband appealed the choice within the Supreme Court which ordered the National Investigation Agency to research a potential Islamist conspiracy. The NIA mentioned that such a ploy couldn’t be dominated out, and that Hadiya’s case was not an remoted one. Without ready for the probe’s findings, the judges launched her into parental custody. But after they noticed the investigation outcomes, they dominated in March 2018 that her marriage was legitimate.

If vigilante teams, together with the Bajrang Dal, have been the primary devices of the anti-“love jihad” marketing campaign, the BJP has progressively used it too. The occasion thought-about overtly exploiting it forward of by-elections in UP 2014. The BJP’s state unit included it in its programme earlier than deciding in opposition to it. But the occasion made it a marketing campaign situation through the 2017 elections. And shortly after forming his cupboard, Yogi Adityanath established “anti-Romeo squads” to “protect” ladies — particularly from Muslims.

Today, the BJP goes one step additional within the states it guidelines by asserting new legal guidelines. On November 18, Narottam Mishra, BJP Madhya Pradesh Home Minister mentioned: “We are going to table the Madhya Pradesh Dharm Swatantrey Bill, 2020, in this winter session in December against love jihad, which means a woman is forced or lured by a person of other religion for marriage and later she is tortured for conversion.” Now the UP cupboard has cleared a draft ordinance to test “unlawful religious conversions” linked to “interfaith marriages”.

Such a legislation would illustrate the transition from a de facto to a de jure Hindu Rashtra, one thing already evident from the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019). This course of is certain to remodel India formally into an ethnic democracy, like Israel — the place blended marriages are virtually not possible.

But this new, law-based model of the Hindu nationalist battle in opposition to inter-religious marriages displays one other main change. The first ideologues of Hindutva weren’t in opposition to these marriages. On the opposite, VD Savarkar, in Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? considers {that a} non-Hindu would grow to be half of the nation if she or he “adopts our land as his or her country and marries a Hindu”. Such marriages had been good issues for Savarkar and his followers, as a result of they insisted that the identical blood was operating within the veins of the Hindus and people who had transformed to a different faith: Race, a key phrase in Savarkar’s lexicon, was doubtlessly a cementing drive. Today, in contrast, Muslims are seen by Hindu nationalists as not possible to assimilate, as in the event that they belonged to a unique species.

This logic harks again to the notion of caste endogamy that BJP leaders assist publicly — as evident from Om Birla’s latest speech on the event of a Brahmin “Parichay Sammelan”. As Satish Poonia, the Rajasthan BJP chief, mentioned much more just lately, “In our culture, marriage isn’t just an individual choice, it also encompasses approval of religion and society”. Indeed, the battle in opposition to “love jihad” bears testimony of a devalorisation of particular person freedom, particularly of ladies, who’re seen as incapable of deciding whom to marry and as susceptible to being seduced.

Another outdated syndrome, the thought of the Hindus’ demographic decline, additionally must be factored in: Inter-religious marriages seem as partly answerable for this decline within the Hindu nationalist worldview, in spite of the truth that the bulk neighborhood nonetheless represents 80 per cent of society. But the “fear of small numbers” (to make use of Arjun Appadurai’s phrase) is all pervasive when cultivated for polarising societies. The Ahmadis of Pakistan can testify to this (ir)rationality.

The author is senior analysis fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, and professor of Indian politics and sociology at
King’s India Institute

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