I am an unapologetic ‘victim’ of Love Jihad.
An upper-middle-class, Brahmin Hindu woman. I was one of the safest, here in my country, India. Until I fell in love with a Kashmiri Muslim man. And I became the target.
For the past year, I have toyed with the idea of typing down my story. Even today, as I type this in my bedroom in the national capital, my hands tremble a bit. What if, my safe haven, the internet fails to keep my anonymity? What if, they fish out my identity? What if, they get to know? What if, they find me?
The ‘they’ of my love story are the antagonists. And, what is a love story without a good, old villain? ‘They’ aren’t so easy to be contained in a single line or definition, but can claim my life if it comes to that. Actually, my tale is more about ‘them’, than it is about my man and me.
The ‘they’ of my story stem from the background of the time I type this in: 2018. We are now in the once distant future that we were so excited about back in the 00’s. Humankind is buzzing, tweeting, ringing with new, progressive thoughts, ideas, innovations and opinions. ‘They’, however, operate from the other end of this spectrum. Their ideas are redundant and regressive, and more often than not, incoherent. Their tool is coercion. Their colour is saffron, and they justify their actions in the name of religion.
So far as my story goes, it was a quintessential college romance. He was a senior at my college. We would talk endlessly, go out on dates, have coffee and hang out with friends. And I thought to myself, well, that’s that. But, it was only after we both confessed our love to each other about a year ago, did the magnitude of our sweet innocent love really hit me. My personal love affair became political. I still shiver at the thought of that.
And that’s how ‘they’ would deem me to be a victim of ‘Love Jihad’. Love Jihad is said to happen, wherein Muslim men ‘lure’ Hindu women with promises of love, with an ulterior motive to get them converted to Islam. The concept is rooted to the bigoted propaganda, by dominant agencies, who wish to establish a Hindu nation in my secular country (or, whatever).
When I was entering college, my mother said to me, “Bass Muslim Ladka mat pakadna” (Just don’t get attached with a Muslim man). My relatives have unapologetically, forwarded messages, videos and memes about the ‘Muslim threat’ our country faces on our family WhatsApp groups. My friends have asked me, time and again, if I feel safe with my Muslim man. The newspaper warns me of all the murders of young adult lovers in the name of religion and honour of their families. My television shouts in high decibels how my judiciary discounts the voice of a consenting adult woman and probes it as a potential case of Love Jihad.
Here is a Hindu Woman answering back to all such agencies and my misinformed friends, family, readers and institutions of the state and the judiciary who have fallen, and become victims of malicious lies.
I am an active opinion maker, Aadhaar card holder, an adult woman of my beloved country. I actively consume knowledge, debate about pertinent issues of our society and work towards making this country a place worth living in. I am not a vulnerable body, a naive mind, to whom a man can simply ‘sweep away and get me converted’. I do not need to wear my religion on my sleeve to prove my ‘association’ with it. I consented to this relationship. I love my Kashmiri, Muslim man with all that I’ve got. My love is my personal choice, none of anybody’s business.
My friend recently asked me, if I wished my man was a Hindu. I scoffed at the idea. “I probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with him if he wasn’t a Muslim”, said I to her. His choice of religion was an integral part of his identity. His religion is his choice, just as my religion is mine.
It feels strangely nice to type this out today. Maybe, I am one of the optimistic few. I still believe, love can conquer all. Love is all we need. Love, and not hate, would save my country. Love can make everything right. And a day will come when everything will be all right.
A day will come when I wouldn’t have to write my love story anonymously.