Who Is Afraid of Love? Communal, Patriarchal Bogey of ‘Love Jihad’
“The black haired Jewish youth lies for hours in ambush, a satanic joy in his face, for the unsuspecting girl whom he pollutes with his blood and steals from her own race.By every means, he seeks to wreck the racial bases of the nation he intends to subdue. Just as individually he deliberately befouls women and girls, so he never shrinks from breaking the barriers race has erected against foreign elements. It was, and is, the Jew who brought Negroes to the Rhine, brought them with the same aim and with deliberate intent to destroy the white race he hates, by persistent bastardization, to hurl it from the cultural and political heights it has attained, and to ascend to them as its masters. He deliberately seeks to lower the race level by steady corruption of the individual” – Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf
It was in Nazi Germany that Hitler sought to portray relationships between the ‘racially inferior’ Jewish youth and the ‘pure’ German woman as a conspiracy to break racial barriers and “subdue” Germany. That was in Germany under the throes of fascism.
And now, in India, we are seeing the political force which is running an elected government presiding over a vicious campaign with obvious racist and fascist overtones. Under the garb of the so-called ‘love jihad’, the RSS-BJP-VHP-ABVP are seeking to criminalise consensual inter-religion relationships, specifically relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.
During the recently conducted by-poll elections in Uttar Pradesh, the RSS-BJP ran a vicious campaign led by Yogi Adityanath against the ‘love jihad’. For the most part, it is a campaign that does not bother to base itself on fact. It is a campaign that willfully peddles stories of Hindu women either being duped or coerced into marrying Muslim men and into changing their religion, that seeks to paint the entire Muslim community as ‘predators’ of Hindu womens’ izzat and Hindu ‘honour’. The similarities with Hitler’s narrative are clear: Muslim men ‘enticing’ unsuspecting Hindu women as part of some grand conspiracy, the subsequent dangers to the ‘nation’ and Hindu culture. It is essentially a new name for an old prejudice, a campaign which draws upon the prevalent communal common sense in our society and milks it to the hilt to spread hatred of the Muslim or the Christian ‘other’. Young men and especially young women who choose, of their own volition, to fall in love and marry outside of ‘permitted’ caste and religious boundaries almost inevitably have to face massive opposition, if not wrath from friends and family. And now, with this organized ‘love jihad’ campaign, this opposition has only been rendered a more organized, potent and dangerous form.
Taking a cue from Amit Shah’s vicious campaign in Muzzafarnagar during the Lok Sabha elections, and from the likes of Yogi Adityanath, the ABVP and the VHP are now roaming around ‘advising’ women about the dangers of entering relationships with Muslim men. In September, at a 2-day meeting held in Lucknow, the ABVP declared that it will form groups of girls on university campuses and educational institutions to curb incidents of ‘love jihad’ in which Muslim youths allegedly lure Hindu girls into marriage and convert them to their religion. “These vigilante groups will not only counsel girls against ‘love jihad’ but also approach the authorities, including principal and proctor of educational institutions, if they come across any case where any Muslim youth was trying to lure a Hindu girl posing as a Hindu,” said Shreehari Borikar, national general secretary, ABVP. (Indian Express Sep 22, 2014).
Recently, in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP state Vice President and MLA Usha Thakur, has taken it a step further by issuing a diktat to ensure that Muslim men aren’t allowed to attend garbas in Indore to prevent women from becoming ‘victims’ of ‘enticement’ and ‘love jihad’!
So now, we will have the entire state machinery and vigilante groups of VHP-ABVP activists cracking down on any consensual relationship between adults, deeming it to be immoral, illegal, or part of some conspiracy!
It is indeed ironic that these campaigns, which openly seek to undermine the autonomy and agency of adult women, are being sold in the name of women’s ‘empowerment’, ‘safety’ and ‘security’.Empowerment is about individual rights and individual agency, and these campaigns are in fact designed to undermine the right and agency of adult people.
Such campaigns are completely uncalled intrusions into people’s personal lives, decisions and relationships. The bogey of women’s ‘honour’ and ‘safety’ has frequently been used as a justification to curb women’s freedom. RSS-VHP-ABVP’s campaign is the latest in this attempt to police women and their decisions in the name of their ‘safety’. And let us also not forget that “protecting” women’s ‘safety’ has always been a useful trope to spread suspicion and hatred against the Muslim “other”.Indeed, it is an offensive which is as communal as it is patriarchal.
Women’s freedom can be ensured only through women’s freedom and equality and respect for their agency, not through such dangerous campaigns that aim to criminalise consensual relationships and spread communal hatred in the name of women’s safety.