Recently in a video which shook the nation, a man in Rajasthan hacked another man to death and burnt the body as a ‘punishment’. In a video uploaded on social media, right before burning the body, he warned anyone against indulging in ‘love jihad‘. In this case, the victim was Mohammed Afrazul. He was killed by a man called Shambhu Lal. The killing was also allegedly filmed by a 14-year-old nephew of Shambhu Lal. It was eventually uploaded on social media. The term ‘love jihad’ has been for long used in India by right-wing groups, to describe an alleged conspiracy in which Muslim men fool Hindu women in the name of love with the ultimate aim of marrying and bringing them into the Islamic fold.
Recently, the country saw another case of ‘love jihad‘. The name of the woman is Hadiya, popularly known as Akhila. Akhila herself claims that she converted to Islam because she was attracted to the teachings of the religion. After her conversion, her father filed a habeas corpus in the Kerala High Court and requested the court to give her custody to him. Her marriage was annulled just because she married a man of another religion. The judgement of the Kerala High Court is not only against the idea of love. According to Sanjukta Basu, “The Kerala high court in a recent judgment has stripped women of every last bit of agency, independence and self-determination, and reduced us to mere gendered bodies, incapable of making decisions.”
The concept of ‘love jihad’ takes the agency away from a woman even further, considering her not mature enough to understand that someone may marry her for the sole purposes of using her. The concept of ‘love jihad’ considers women subservient and does not give her the right to choose her spouse. It is based on the notion of patriarchal culture that women cannot make decisions for themselves. Further, the judgement, in the case of Hadiya, is also based on the patriarchal notion which considers a woman to be the property of her husband or father.
Ironically, the Kerala High Court has also given a positive judgement in a habeas corpus filed by Anees Hamid, seeking the release of his wife Sruthi Meledath from parental custody. The judge, in this case, said “ We are appalled to note the recent trend in the state to sensationalize every case of inter-religious marriage as love jihad/ghar wapsi… If the parents of the boy/girl do not approve of inter-caste marriage the maximum they can do is cut off relations of son/ daughter.” The court should be overzealous to protect the individual liberty of every citizen and unlock the door to freedom.
At a time when the country is witnessing a lot of hate campaigns, community boycotts and people are unable to recognise the power and beauty of love, the judiciary should remember that its primary responsibility is to protect the right of every citizen and also the fact that it should not interfere with the personal decision of anyone. The court should recognise the fact that love has the power to break boundaries, to unite different communities/religions and the choices of every citizen should be respected even if it does not conform to the idea of clan honour/identity or to the norm of society/community.