India, love jihad, religion tension, Bismillah Geelani

Twenty three-year old Tara Sahdev is a shooting athlete from the Eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 
 
She met Ranjit singh Kohli, a Hindu man from her home state in a shooting range a few months ago.  They dated for some time and decided to get married. 
 
But barely a month after the wedding Tara runaway. 
 
She says she was duped because Kohli is actually a Muslim named Rakeebul Hasan
 
“From the very next day of our marriage this man started forcing me to convert to Islam. When I refused he began torturing me. I was denied food and water and was beaten up mercilessly every day.  He would say if you want to stay alive and live with honor you will have to accept Islam otherwise you can’t even imagine what would happen to you. He even threatened to sell me off for prostitution.”
 
Tara’s husband has been arrested but he maintains he was born into a Hindu Family and is still a Hindu.
               
He also denies the charges of beating and abusing his wife.
 
20-year old Manisha from the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh claims she was also misled.

She fell in love with her classmate without knowing that he was a Muslim.
 
“I trusted him completely but when I came to know that he was a Muslim I refused to marry him. But he did not leave me, I did not want to convert but he took me to a religious leader he said something to me and  when I came back home my mind was totally changed and I decided to leave my family and elope with him.”
 
Manisha’s family brought her back and today she is married to a Hindu man.
 
Hindu groups  say Hundreds of such cases where Muslim men pose as Hindus and woo Hindu women on false pretences are taking place across the country.
 
They Call it “Love Jihad” and say it is a Muslim Conspiracy to Convert Hindus to Islam.
 
Vikas Tiyagi is a leader of the Hindu fundamentalists group Bajrang Dal.
 
“For love Jihad the Muslim youth take Hindu names, they adopt Hindu religious signs like the red string bracelet and the red dot on the forehead and then they go into Hindu localities and colleges and prey on Hindu girls. The Arab countries are funding this campaign and Madrassas are being used as training centers for this.”
 
Some Hindu groups including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s parent organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or the RSS, have launched a door- to-door campaign to raise awareness about the issue in small towns and villages.
 
Here a group of villagers in Western Uttar Pradesh is being made to take an oath that they will remain loyal to Hinduism and protect the women of their community at any cost.
 
Hindu activists then distribute handbills and pamphlets with a list of Do’s and Don’ts and helpline numbers for the community to avoid—what they say- is falling prey to Love jihad.
 
The campaign is attracting many takers like Housewife Kaushalliya Devi.
 
“This is a much needed initiative, we all have young girls and it is our duty to protect them.
 
While the ruling-BJP is not openly endorsing the campaign some lawmakers from the party have thrown their weight behind it.
 
Yogi Adityanath is a Bhratiya Janata Party MP from Uttra Pradesh.
 
“The campaign needs to be taken up at the national level. Deceiving Hindu girls in the name of love, this love Jihad is not a local Phenomenon it’s part of an international conspiracy and Pakistan’s ISI has a role in it. It cannot be tolerated and whoever indulges in this will have to pay a heavy price.

The term Love Jihad was first used a few years ago by Hindu and Christian groups, in southern states of Kerala and Karnataka to describe the alleged forced conversions by Muslims.
 
But the police in both states said they did not find evidence to prove any such conspiracy.
 
The Uttar Pradesh Police currently probing the charges also hasn’t yet come across any conclusive proof.
 
Muslim leaders like Asrarul Haq say it’s a hate campaign to tarnish the community’s image.
 
“The Hindu nationalist groups have a habit of using every issue for political mileage, they use religion for politics and now in the name of love jihad they are using love to further their political agenda and the sole purpose of this exercise is to generate hate against a particular community and vitiate communal atmosphere in the country.
 
For many including some women’s groups the campaign by Hindu groups represents their growing insecurity and anxiety in a situation where Indian women are increasingly asserting their freedoms and taking their decisions.
 
Charu Gupta is Professor of History at the University of Delhi.
 
“While every cheating, deception, violence and coercion against women has to be severely condemned, the problems arises when any kind of romance, love , elopement and marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim male is re-written  by Hindu organizations as forcible conversion.
 
Gupta has studied the issue for a long time and she sees a clear pattern in Hindu groups’ reactions which she says dates back to nearly a century.
 
“I have statistical evidence, police records, CID records to say that whenever there is an escalation of communal violence Hindu organizations have used women’s body, they have used arguments of love marriage, everyday inter-religious interactions to fan communal mobilization and in this campaign the Muslim male is constantly portrayed as scoundrel, there’s an attempt to build a hate psyche and to build a Hindu common sense. 
 
As the campaign in Uttar Pradesh gathers momentum, the judiciary has intervened in the matter expressing serious concerns over some politicians’ involvement with the campaign.
 
Uttar Pradesh is going to polls later this month and the court has asked the government and the Election commission what they are doing about the issue and against the politicians using it to stoke communal tensions.

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