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एक तीर से दो निशाने: The Love Jihad Bogey Is Also Against Hindu Women

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The recent lynching of a Muslim labourer by people claiming to fight ‘love jihad’ has once again reminded us of the times we live in.

These are times when the Indian society, collectively, is marching backwards, culturally and politically. Socially conservative elements have defeated the dream of the modern, progressive India which many of our freedom fighters envisioned for our country. Of course, these traditional elements come in every shade, from orange to green to white. After all, the imagination of Jamaat-e-Islami is not very different than that of the RSS when it comes to women making choices.

However, what threatens all the women coming from my social location and me is the RSS brand of conservatives. While the RSS had seen a rise in their membership, and their political assertion can be seen almost parallel to the coming of the LPG reforms in 1991, never before have they been so assertive. The arrival of the BJP in power has definitely given a boost to their legitimacy and has aided their propaganda machinery to a significant level. While these are related and important issues to discuss, this article is written on a product of their propaganda – love jihad.

The bogey of love jihad is one of the many tactics of the RSS machinery to serve their agenda of uniting the Hindu community, and more importantly uniting them on an anti-Muslim plank. While it is the common understanding among many of us, I want to underline the special importance of this weapon.

While the others are important tools in the hate machinery, the bogey of love jihad, along with the gau rakshak phenomena hold a special place in their bag.This is because love jihad not only develops hatred among the Hindus against the Muslims (and generally against other religious communities), but it also serves the idea of women being second-grade denizens. This is a significant agenda when we realise how the ‘izzat’ of the Hindu community rests on the shoulders of the Hindu woman. Otherwise, why do the RSS and its hydra-organisations take up campaigns appealing to Hindu men to marry Muslim women in response to ‘love jihad’? Clearly, there is more to this than what meets the eye.

Love jihad, in my opinion, rests more on the patriarchal mindset of the Hindu-rightwing. One of the underlining assumptions in the idea of love jihad, is that Hindu women are pea-headed, and can be easily manipulated by anyone. This is the reason why the Hindu Samaj (read Hindu men) needs to protect us from the men of other communities, who apparently have the power to lure us through their Casanova-like abilities.

This is clearly in line with the understanding of women and their abilities by the plethora of rishis, gurus, and leaders of the various sects within the Hindu Samaj. The opinions of the great lawgiver Manu, held for women are what is providing the philosophical base for fundamentalists like the RSS. Manu Smriti tells us that “Pita rakhshati……….” – 9/3. Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as a child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as a widow.”

Due to such ‘incapacity’ of women to live independently, the right to autonomy and to choose her own partner becomes a myth at best and an anti-Hindu move at worst. After all, the ‘izzat’ of the samaj rests in the vagina of the woman. She has to bear the izzat because of her ability to give birth to the future generations of the ‘samaj’. Moreover, a woman in control, helps these fundamentalists to maintain their agenda of political Hindutva. If the women of the samaj start to marry people from other communities, then can the Muslims community be shown as our enemy?

The alliance started by marriage in India as elsewhere is not only an occasion of coming together of individuals, but also of families. This created a strong culture of interaction and acceptance between different communities, and as a result, provide a hindrance to the sectarian agendas of the RSS and others. Moreover, the cumulative biases against a woman that our society holds, make it easier to paint cases of inter-faith marriages as love jihad. After all, even today, people, including my family, believe that it is much easier to manipulate women than men.  This is, of course, is linked to the feeling of the society that women are the weaker sex, and need protection and guidance from male members in their affinity to make sensible choices. Hence, love jihad is not only against Muslims, but also against Hindu women’s right to choose.

In my opinion, the citizenship rights and the autonomy of the Hindu woman are perceived dangerous for the Sangh Parivar. The modern assertive woman is a slut, a product of western propaganda, and a detriment to the holy intuition of family, and the Hindu social order. In short, the view of viewing women as equal residents of the community is an evil beyond acceptance for the fundamentalist.

These can be seen playing out in both thought and practice of the Sanghi-dominated institutions of the country. For example, the BHU Administration which has been under the control of the Sangh for quite some time now, professes that the girls should be inside the prison they call hostels much before the boys. The protests which recently erupted in BHU were against such discriminatory practices.

In that incident too, the administration underlined that the women students ‘were manipulated by anti-nationals of JNU’, and the evidence given to support such baseless claims was that ‘girls of the Hindu Samaj do not protest’. This is proof enough of the imagination of the women in the minds of the fundamentalists.

It is important for a woman like me, coming from the Hindu community, to recognize this as an attack on us. It is essential for us to stand against hate mongering, not only as humans standing for humanity, but also as women who want to defend their right to choose their partners.

My boyfriend comes from a non-Brahmin caste, while my closest friend, who is a Muslim, found a lover in a Hindu woman. I have decided to defend my right to choose my partner, and that girl’s right to choose hers. Feminist and women rights organisations should take up these issues on the ground and on social media highlighting the patriarchy playing out in this campaign against inter-religious marriages. It’s the need of the hour to attack the RSS not only as anti-minorities at every step, but also as anti-women. It is time to expose these fanatics for what they are.

The lovers of ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’ have found an ally in me, and I am sure I will find allies in the multitude of Hindu women if they are involved in the campaign against hate.

नफरत के खिलाफ, हम सबकी एक आवाज़! Lets all raise our voice against hate.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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