By Pallavi Ghosh:
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has called for a strike after news of the alleged abduction of a 21-year-old woman by a middle-aged man came to the fore at Nadiad town in Gujarat. A case of abduction has been filed by the woman’s parents against Masum Mahida, who is also reported to be a bootlegger according to media reports. Although the police investigations are focusing on tracking the accused and the supposed victim and are refraining from communalising the incident, the VHP has gone ahead with demanding action against ‘love jihad’ from the District Superintendent of Police and Collector.
The term ‘love jihad’ was allegedly coined by a member of the Sangh, Vijaykant Chauhan, claiming that Hindu women are being lured into marriage by Muslim youth. The RSS was quick to pick up the issue and turn it into a national campaign against a supposed cultural attack on the Hindu culture. An anti-love jihad campaign, thus, was seen as a mechanism to curb the threat of receding Hindu population in a nation where 78.35 per cent of the total population is Hindu, which translates to 947 million people in the nation. Now, even if the claims of the VHP stand true, one still falls short of the exact estimate of the number of such cases being reported within the country. We have so far have heard nothing of the number of people being converted through manipulation.
Secondly, the assertion that conversion actually threatens the majoritarian group seems exaggerated considering the fact that within 2001-2011, there has been a growth of around 120 million Hindus as against 33 million Muslims. This means that the difference between the number of people added into the two communities is 87 million. In other words for every 1 Muslim included in the census recording, 3 Hindus were included in the same (the exact calculation 1:3.6).
The Census data does provide evidence of a decline in the growth of Hindu population and a simultaneous increase with regard to Muslim growth figures, but to convert this statistical finding to create a psychotic fear of the other is both inaccurate as well as undesirable in a country that is based on the principle of co-operation and harmony. One might also think over if the increasing Muslim population needs to be taken as a threat at all or not. Is not it more nationalistic-cum-right-wing-ish to think of ways to constructively integrate the community as well as other numerically weak and marginalised groups into the nation’s rubric to strengthen national unity?
Further, abduction and rape charges against eloped couples are also very common in India even in cases where consent exists between the eloped couple. Consequently, we cannot glance over the fact that the particulars of the case in hand in Gujarat remain in the dark leaving all interpretations as mere speculation; the facts of the case will be established only after both – the accused and the alleged victim are found and investigated.
Given the dearth of information, the call for action against a supposed love jihad and the strike seems distanced from reality. The best way out of this web of assumption is perhaps to let the police and court run their full course and determine as to what is legally permissible within the boundaries of the Indian Constitution.