By Abhishek Jha:
“Now I will tell you the truth. We charged them with rape, but it wasn’t rape, it was consensual. We slapped a rape case against them to teach them a lesson. The girl wasn’t ready to give a statement against them. If you look at the case in depth, the girl was willing. Three people didn’t take her away by force… Girls are girls…it has been said about them that they will change according to circumstances in five minutes…when she was slapped and coerced, she wrote the FIR (that we wanted).”
– Sanjay Rana, BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan
Love Jihad has been rubbished before, despite repeated efforts at manufacturing a non-existent concept. From Kerala it travelled to Western U.P. and was at the centre of the Muzaffarnagar riots. It has been common knowledge since then that it was a bogey created by groups associated with the BJP. However, the direct association of BJP members in this fear-mongering business has been a speculation based on the inflammatory speeches they gave before crowds and the riots that they were party to. Also, the modus operandi of this entire campaign wasn’t known in detail. Operation Juliet, a new documentary by investigative media platforms Cobrapost and Gulail, exposes this entire campaign, the people involved in it, and the lawless madness that drives it. Running into several hours and uploaded in fifteen parts on Youtube, the documentary shows several members associated with the Sangh parivar confessing to pressurising and colluding with the police and lawyers, abducting and physically assaulting couples, and several other crimes.
Not surprisingly, the list of people that confess in the sting operation includes the people who are accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots as well. Interestingly, Sanjeev Balyan, the BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar, is the Minister of State for Agriculture now. BJP MLA from Sardhana Sangeet Som, who enjoys Z plus security cover and is out on bail, is now polarising people along communal lines in Dadri. Other prominent leaders in the sting operation are BJP MLA Suresh Rana, BJP MP Hukum Singh, BJP leader Sanjay Agarwal, RSS leader Omkar Singh, VHP head from Muzaffarnagar Lalit Maheshwari, and BJP MLC Captain Ganesh Karnik. The only exception here is the testimony of a Ravish Tantri of Hindu Unity Forum in Kerala who says that even Hindus from Congress and Marxists support them at times despite opposing their campaign in public.
The entire campaign – which involves strongmen, lawyers, and policemen- can be construed as a means to stirring communal passions leading to riots and eventually electoral gain by manufacturing Hindu solidarity. This is distilled in a chilling explanation by a Dr. Cijith of the Hindu Helpline in Ernakulam: “We cannot initiate a riot. That never happens. If I want a riot, I can’t just say Hindus and Muslims. They won’t do it. No community will do that. What I can do is I can make all the circumstances ready. I can just initiate the people. I can just irritate the people. And the incident has to happen itself. The same thing happened there.”
All of the accused repeat the same standard method used by them to rescue Hindu girls from “love jihad”. They learn of Hindu girls marrying Muslim boys either from the court (where the couple go to get married) via lawyers associated with the Sangh or through her family. The girl is then cajoled, threatened, or beaten up to force her to part with her Muslim partner. This often involves creating a boogeyman out of the Muslim boy, imposing bigoted views about Islam on them, or at times drugging the girl. There exist organised counselling cells and Hindu Helpline numbers for this brainwashing ordeal. Meanwhile, the boy is beaten up, slapped with false cases (sometimes made by forcing the girl to file these charges), and threatened with the help of policemen sympathetic to the Hindutva brigade. Lalit Maheshwari, VHP’s head from Muzaffarnagar, elaborates in the sting operation that he with the help of Durga Vahini- a sister organisation of the VHP- organises camps in villages (because he doesn’t get a big crowd in cities) to spread the same message of protecting the “honour” of Hindu women.
This “honour” is “protected” by perpetuating the age old laws of Manu and the patriarchal wisdom that comes with it. Sanjay Rana, a BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, narrates how he gets false cases registered against Muslim boys in this manner, “Ladki toh ladki… ye toh pehle se hi unke baare me kahan gya ye toh paristhitiyon ke anusaar 5 minute me badal jawein…jab do chaatein lagi alag ko le jaa ke aur tight kari to fir wo FIR likhati paayin. (Girls are girls…it has been said about them that they will change according to circumstances in five minutes…when she was slapped and coerced, she wrote the FIR (that we wanted).”
This implications of this racket are terrifying. Its penetration into all forms of government – as claimed by the people in the documentary- warns of even more troubling times ahead.
The manner in which this entire campaign is described by each person in the documentary reeks of an ideologically brainwashed group ready to go to any extent to further their ends. The views expressed by some of them are shocking in their very conception and makes one wonder whether the person is an elected representative of this country or someone whom one can dismiss as a fringe element. This is a pertinent question, because it is not out of vacuum that rabid crowds descended on a few Muslims in Dadri, in Atali, in Shamli or Muzaffarnagar.
Shiv Kumar, the founder of Krishna Sena, was associated with the Sangh parivar before he floated his own Sena, out of disillusionment from the BJP, which he did not find fanatic enough. He himself claims to have been a Hindu terrorist in the early 2000s. What he narrates at the very beginning of the documentary remains a horrifying marker for what follows, “when we used to go out to kill Muslims, we roamed for entire nights, and if we came back empty-handed and without having killed anyone, then I felt very weird…and when we killed any Muslim, there used to be celebration, like one was very happy from within.”
Surprisingly Rana, an MLA, doesn’t distance himself from Shiv Kumar in conversation with the journalist posing as a student. On the other hand, he brushes aside Shiv Kumar’s apprehensions about BJP, “Agar BJP support na karti to uski zindagi kharab ho jaati. Hota hai kuch logon ki mansikta…ladka bhot achcha hai wo lekin (If the BJP hadn’t supported, then his life would have been ruined. Some people have a mindeset…he is a good bloke though.)”
Hukum Singh, BJP MP from Kairana, speaking at the time of the Lok Sabha campaign echoes Shiv Kumar and Rana when he says, “strategy toh yahi hogi BJP ki government ayegi, phir psychological atmoshphare banega. Aur jab psychological atmosphere banega toh koi Muslim dare nahi karega iski ye jo main kah rha hu. ye toh strategy hai. (The strategy will be that BJP’s government will come, then a psychological atmosphere will be created. And when the psychological atmosphere will be created, no Muslim will dare to do what I am saying).”
Although Shiv Kumar describes himself as a Hindu terrorist, it is not a term that is used in this country or elsewhere. Although saffron terror did gain some traction, the term terrorist remains tethered to the figure of the ‘Muslim’. This figure is sustained in the country by politicians who have nothing to offer but a bogus enemy, a “soft target”– as a policeman describes eloping lovers conned by the Hindutva brigade – that can be hit, battered, killed in lieu of a real enemy. This figure absorbs all contradictions: thus he is squalid and poor in Muzaffarnagar, rich and influential in Atali. This is the same figure that incites a mob to murderous frenzy in Dadri. Whether it be crop failure or the increasing cases of rape, all baffling contradictions in this society are subsumed in this figure. Operation Juliet should not only kill the bogey of ‘love jihad’, it should kill the boogeyman too.