On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet approved a draft ordinance against forced religious conversions or interfaith marriages with the only intention of changing girls’ religion. From the last few weeks, four state governments including Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, and Assam had already shown their interest in bringing a law against forced conversions or a term called “Love Jihad.”
“Love Jihad” is described as a practice in which a Muslim male woos a Hindu female to marry her, just for the sake of changing her religion to Islam. The right-wing Hindu leaders believe that it is a real phenomenon that is present in India and is a huge threat to Hindu women, while the left-wing believes that it is a conspiracy theory by extremist Hindu leaders to polarize people in the name of religion and create a divide. So, what does a term like “Love Jihad” actually tell us and what are the roots of its origin?
Caste, class and religion: India is surely a secular country where people celebrate every festival from Diwali to Christmas, to Eid, but when it comes to personal relationships, people like to get attached within their communities, based on their caste, religion and class. This is the reason that no matter how open-minded people become, they will always be attached to the patriarchal mindset that they have been fed for years. The road to interfaith marriages is getting worse day by day in India and it takes a plethora of efforts by an interfaith couple to be accepted by their families and the society.
Consent of women: Thanks to the patriarchy, women in India are still considered as objects too fragile to take their own decisions, whether the decision involves their personal choices, education or marriage. I know that is not entirely true when it comes to educated families in urban areas but that forms just a small section of India. A much bigger section lives far from that environment.
Just accept the fact that women in India are seen as soft objects that need instruction because, of course, they don’t have the mind to think of their own.
A fascination of Hindu Rashtra: No, I am not saying this just because I want to criticize the government for its extremist Hindu ideologies. I am saying this for all the people who are fascinated with the idea of a Hindu Rashtra, which is being fed by the political leaders.
Firstly, there is no proper definition of what “Love Jihad” is. The central government itself has said that no cases of “Love Jihad” has been reported by central agencies. The several attempts to investigate the cases of “Love Jihad” in Kerala and Karnataka have found no evidence and most of the reported cases were found to be consensual. But if any case of forced conversion happens, there are several laws to cover for the punishment. The man can be booked under different laws including cheating, forced assault, and many more.
Secondly, the law does not do much for the female as declaring marriages which are forced conversions as void does not bear significant fruit.
So, the only benefit that it could provide is an opportunity for extremist political leaders who want to create a communal divide between the people. People in politics may change over the years but politics remains the same. The policy of divide and rule is not unknown to the people of politics and religion is the best way to do that. The politicization of interfaith marriages has been done for mere political gains.
You must be living under a rock if you are not aware of the extremist Hindu ideologies of the government which led to the incidents of communal divide. Muzaffarnagar riots are an example of how people in politics can influence riots for their political gains.
Several incidents of the past have already created enough fear among the minorities of the country. If you had thought that CAA and the Ram Mandir issue had created enough gap between the Hindus and Muslims of the country, there comes an avenue that could do the highest amount of harm to the communal harmony of the country.
There is enough social stigma around inter-caste and inter-religion marriages in India and these kinds of laws are just going to increase them more. Interfaith marriage couple have to fight enough to get social acceptance already.
It looks like we are going back to the time when women were not allowed to take decisions or stand up for their own. Today, every adult women in India has the right to choose her partner, irrespective of his religion or community, but this law directly attacks their right to choose or right to practice any religion that they want.
This law overall questions the secular identity of India, where we see a beautiful integration of culture and people across different religions living together. To follow the popular phrase: “Love has no religion, be it a Hindu or a Muslim.” The only way we can stop hate is to remove “Jihad” and leave “Love” alone.