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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Does love know Religious boundaries?

                       Does love know Religious boundaries?

                       Ram Puniyani

                                     

Communal politics, communal violence all over used women’s bodies as the site of contestation and community honor. This is the worst expression of patriarchal values inherent in the communal politics. We recall that it was the presentation of a road accident between boys of two religious communities that was propagated as an issue of the honor of ‘our girl’ being violated by the ‘other’. The Panchayats were mobilized; openly flaunting the arms, and Muzzafarnagar violence was orchestrated. And that’s not the end of the abuse of ‘our women-their women’ mind set. Post Muzzafarnagar violence, UP is abuzz with various activities aimed at polarizing the communities using this issue.

 

A Madarassa teacher stated that she was abducted and raped, by Muslim men. She kept changing her versions and later said that she had eloped with her lover. This Raksha Bandhan day (August 2014) hordes of RSS volunteers spread in different parts of Western UP, tying Rakhi (sacred thread, traditionally tied by sister on brothers wrist) to the people and warning them of the threat of the Muslim youth wooing away their ‘girls’ for love jihad.  ‘Muslim youth teasing and luring Hindu girls’ has been made the central part of propaganda in Western UP currently. While the Prime minister states from the ramparts of Red Fort that there should be a moratorium on communalism-casteism for ten years, his party colleague, Chandramohan, a BJP spokesperson from UP says that “incident like that of the madrassa teacher are a part of ‘global love jihad’, which targets vulnerable Hindu girls.” In BJP’s parent organization, RSS, after the shakhas are dispersed the volunteers go from house to house and tell the people about ‘dangers of love jihad’ and need to protect ‘our girls’! ANHAD report on Muzzafarnagar violence, ‘Evil stalks the land’ exposes the falsehood of ‘Muslim boy talking to Hindu girls to lure them to marry and so to convert to Islam’. Incidentally this was the major concoction around which the riot was engineered. One Baba Rijakdas has come up in Saharanpur in Western UP. He is supposed to cure the love smitten girls, if the boy happens to be a Muslim!

 

The word “love Jihad’ which played a major role in mobilizing the Hindu community for violence, has a strange history. As such the two components of this word Love and Jihad, who so ever manufactured it, have a very different meaning. Since 9/11 2001 the word Jihad has been employed in the popular media in a very negative way and that meaning has by now become part of the ‘social common sense’. Contrary to the meaning of the word Jihad in Koran, which means striving, it came be projected as killing of non-Muslims. The word Love Jihad must be a creation of an evil genius and it has come to be used to further demonize the Muslim community. The propaganda has been that some Muslim organizations are funding Muslim youth, to lure the non Muslim girls, to marry them and to increase the Muslim population. The rumor is being spread that youth are given money to buy motorbike, mobile etc and lure the non Muslim girls. 

 

While doing Google search, if you type, ‘why Hindu Girls are’, the other sentence which pops up on the search engine is ‘are attracted to Muslim boys”! Recently in Maharashtra, a group “Hindu Raksha Samiti” has been claiming to save Hindu religion by breaking up the Hindu Muslim couples, if the girl happens to be a Hindu girl. Not that there are too many such couples, just a suspicion and these self appointed guardians of Hinduism pounce on the boy. A booklet in Marathi on Love Jihad shows a Muslim boy riding the Motor bike, with Hindu girl riding pillion. The word has been so popularized that even a Christian group in Kerala allied with the Sangh progeny, VHP to stop this non existing phenomenon.

 

In India the word began to be used in coastal Karnataka, Mangalore couple of years ago, and in parts of Kerala. It was Sri Ram Sene founded by RSS trained Swayam Sevak, Pramod Mutalik, which started attack on Hindu girl-Muslim boy couples. The marriages of such combinations started being looked at with suspicion and if parents were opposed to the marriage, Sri Ram Sene would help to take the matter to the court also. The pretext was that the girl has been forced to marry the Muslim boy. Funnily in the case of Sijalraj and Azghar the judge of Karnatak High Court, went on to give the ruling, that the facts (Love Jihad) had “national ramifications… concern security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women,”! So it ordered the Director-General and Inspector-General of Police to hold a thorough investigation into to ‘love jihad’. Pending that, the girl was asked to stay with her parents. The case was that of a simple Hindu Muslim marriage and the girl stood to her version and refused to bow to the social pressures. The police investigation showed that the notion of ‘love Jihad’ is a cooked up one with no substance whatsoever.

 

In a similar case earlier the Kerala High court while hearing the appeal from two parents passed a similar order. Two Hindu girls had eloped and got converted to Islam and planned to get married. Kerala court also ordered the police authorities to investigate this phenomenon. The police investigation again showed that there is no such phenomenon as Love Jihad. The organizational promotion of such marriages is a hoax but has become part of social understanding.

 

Shri Ram Sene propaganda stated that over 4000 Hindu girls have been lured into conversions. This concoction was aggressively put across through various mechanisms. This laughable, figment of imagination spread like wild fire and frightened the parents. The trajectory of many of these girls who initially state about their love for the boy and voluntary conversion, changes many a times after they are forced to stay with their parents. Under a sort of emotional blackmail, some girls give in and later say that they were brain washed, shown a Jihadi CD and what not.

 

We have witnessed such acts in the form of propaganda in Gujarat in the wake of carnage, that ‘Muslim boys are luring Adivasi girls’. There Babu Bajarangi, a VHP-Bajrang Dal activist, who was also a major participant in Gujarat carnage (2002), formed a goon-gang. This gang attacked couples and forced them to separate if they belonged to different religions. All this is presented as defense of religion! As such inter-caste, inter-religious marriages are a normal natural part of a plural society. With rise of the communal politics, these inter-religious marriages are being opposed very dangerously. We have also the case of Rijwan Ur Rehman married to Priyanka Todi, daughter of an affluent and powerful business magnate of Kolkata. She was forced to turn around under emotional blackmail from parents and relatives. The details were not known, what is known is that later Rijwan Ur Rehman was forced to commit suicide. In all such cases the role of police, state machinery, has been totally against the spirit and provisions of law, the protectors of law acting to support the things totally against the law.

 

Such campaigns against inter-religion, inter-caste marriages are not only against the spirit of national integration they also aim to control the lives of girls in the patriarchal mode. Women’s bodies are made symbols of community honor. In addition the bogey against a minority is whipped up to aid the divisive politics. It is a double bonus for sectarian politics. Since in patriarchal norms women are regarded as property of man and are made to live under the control structure defined by men, such an issue rouses high emotions. The agenda of communal politics targets minorities, Muslims at one level and promotes patriarchal norms at another.

 

 Over a period of time, from being just a mechanism to control the lives of Hindu girls, a tool to ensure that girls don’t have the right to choose their own life partners, this phrase has been used to instigate violence as witnessed in Muzaffarnagar. Most of the pretexts of communal violence are cooked up, gradually manufactured. This term ‘Love Jihad’ by now is being used as a dangerous weapon. Lot of messages on whatsApp and face book are flying and relating the phenomenon as an international conspiracy of the Muslims. On other side Jodha Akabar is being cited as the initial incident of this phenomenon. Clearly one knows that kings used to have such marriages as a part of political alliances, cutting across other boundaries. How cleverly the popular legend of Jodha Akbar is being manipulated!

 

The politics in the name of religion, the politics of Sangh Parivar here in India or that of Taliban’s in Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalists, or even Christian fundamentalists all operate on the same wavelength as far as crushing the rights of women is concerned. In line with this starting from Sri Ram Sene, to Babu Bajrangi to those orchestrating violence in Muzzafarnager, they all operate on the premise, that women are the property of men and their lives have to be controlled. The truth is not the issue here; the myth has been drilled in to the thinking of society. This social thinking is being stepped up by the activities of RSS and affiliates who are having door to door campaign to spread the venom of communal hatred.

 

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Response only to ram.puniyani@gmail.com