By Nivedita Menon
October 26, 2014
Caught on the back foot by the humiliating backfiring of their fantastical Meerut scenario of ‘gang rape and forcible conversion’, in which the role of the BJP as well as of sundry Hindutvavaadi organizations in breaking up a consensual Hindu-Muslim relationship have been thoroughly exposed, the Hindu Right appears to have arrived at a new formula. This formula has made its appearance in several spaces – in comments on Kafila (some of which have been passed, many more deleted; mostly pseudonymous or anonymous, and in varying degrees of abusiveness); on the social media and in personal blogs; and more respectably, in newspapers, in signed op-eds and articles, the most recent of them by the perennially amusing Madhu Kishwar.
The formula is patented across these sites and involves all or several of the following claims:
a) Hindutvavaadi groups are not the only ones to fear ‘Love Jihad’ – the Church in Kerala and the Akal Takht have also expressed their anxieties about this campaign. So there must be some fire generating all the smoke.
b) So real is the danger that the claims have been investigated by the police, as directed to do so by courts.
c) Hindutvavaadi groups have no objection to inter-faith marriage, what they object to is the cheating of Hindu women into marriage in a well orchestrated campaign by Muslim men who trap them in polygamous marriages only to convert them and produce several children, thus raising the Muslim population.
d) What is happening in India is only a small part of the Global Islamic Terror Machine’s global campaign to use non-Muslim women as sex slaves, to prostitute them, or to seduce them in order to convert them. The recent exposure of a paedophile ring in the UK run by Pakistani men is treated as proof of the existence of such a globally coordinated campaign in which all Muslims are suspect – from Al-Baghdadi of ISIS to your classmate.
e) As irrefutable proofs, three links are generally circulated: a) a programme of IBN7 that ‘exposes Love Jihad’, and b) two videos of young women who supposedly speak about being victims of Love Jihad.
Madhu Kishwar in her article asserts all of these claims produced by the RSS Myth Machine, although she is probably not yet aware of the last item – which I will address at length in conclusion.
Even as she does this, she insists that the issue ‘needs to be freed from the clutches of rabble-rousers claiming to speak on behalf of Hindutva’, such as ‘hysteria-mongers like Yogi Adityanath and outfits like the Bajrang Dal.’ Considering that ‘the issue’ is precisely the product of these rabble rousers and hysteria mongers, this makes no sense. If you believe that such a campaign exists, with not a shred of evidence whatsoever, at least line up with your actual comrades-in-arms – rabid Hindutvavaadis – and don’t dare to claim the space of ‘non-partisan social scientists’. Who else but a ‘hysteria monger’ could utter the following memorable words in which Kishwar expresses herself:
We need to rise above the left-right divide to investigate this menace with thorough precision. Only then will we know the extent of the threat, whether it is real or phobic.
This is non-partisan social science? To term something ‘a menace’ and talk about ‘the extent of the threat’ before we find out whether it is real at all or merely a ‘phobic fantasy’?
Let us address the elements of the ‘new and improved’ Hindutvavaadi formula one by one.
First – the ‘phobic fantasy’ of patriarchal elements across the religious spectrum that is not a fantasy at all is this – young men and women are falling in love, across caste and religious divides, and this is rocking the foundations of caste and religious identity. Muslim parents are as worried and anxious about this as are Christian and Hindu parents. They don’t want their daughters marrying non-Muslims any more than the latter want Muslim in-laws. The report in The Indian Express, that I linked to in my earlier post, which lists elopements that provided the Hindu Right opportunities to mobilize in Uttar Pradesh, includes Muslim parents forcibly taking away their daughters from Dalit husbands. In these instances, the BJP descended to demand the return of the girls to their husbands! Because of course, the woman has no caste or religious identity than that of her husband, so if ‘we’ get ‘their’ girls, ‘our’ ‘numbers increase. If the Christian Right and the Akal Takht express these fears too, they are only latching on to a convenient bogey produced by their mirror images, the Hindutvavaadis. Across the board, patriarchal elements are united in controlling the sexuality of their young and taming illegitimate desire that could challenge the institution of the patriarchal heterosexual family as they know it.
Even the left is not immune from mean-minded political calculations on this matter. In a statement clearly meant to woo the conservative Hindu constituency (and perhaps expressing his personal disquiet about intermarriage as well), VS Achuthanandan said in 2010 that the Popular Front of India (PFI) was trying to multiply Muslim numbers in the state “by influencing youth of other religions and converting them by giving money, marrying them to Muslim women and thus producing kids of the community.” Whatever his motives, he too simply asserted this claim, with nothing to back it. Kishwar however presents his statement as follows:
The situation must have been grave if the then chief minister of Kerala, V.S. Achuthanandan, of the CPM, alleged conversion of non-Muslim girls to Islam under the pretext of love marriage.
Take a father who says to his daughter – ‘Don’t go out of the home unless absolutely necessary, and don’t dress in anything but the most conventional of clothes, its girls who don’t obey these rules who get raped’. When the daughter argues, he retorts ‘It’s not just I who say this, after all. Ask anybody, ask your friends’ parents, ask the neighbours. They will all tell you the same thing. Women who get raped asked for it.’
He’s right, everybody would in fact say the say the same thing – does that make it ‘true’? What everybody says is the ‘fire’ that produces the smoke? Or does the entrenched existence of a set of ideas across a social spectrum indicate powerful ideological structures in operation?
Anybody who claims ‘social science’ should be able to make this simple distinction that a BA student would understand.
Second – the fact that in Kerala and Karnataka inquiries were conducted to ascertain the existence of ‘Love Jihad’ is cited AS PROOF that ‘the menace’ is real, although the inquiries in fact showed that there was no evidence whatsoever that such a campaign existed.
In a final, seven-page report on December 31, 2009, the CID police produced more damning evidence to junk the ‘love jihad’ theory. Then CID DGP D V Guruprasad told the high court “there is no organised attempt by any group of individuals to entice girls/women belonging to Hindu or Christian religions to marry Muslim boys with the aim of converting them to Islam”. The CID data also showed that girls and boys were marrying across religions. Of the 229 girls who had been reported “missing” between 2005 and 2009 in Karnataka and were part of an inter-religious marriage, 149 were Hindus who had married Muslim men while 10 were Hindus who had wed Christians; 38 Muslim girls and 20 Christian girls in this period had married Hindu boys; a Muslim girl had married a Christian boy; while 11 Christian girls had married Muslim boys.
In Kerala, the DGP Police in October 2009 claimed before the High Court that he had
unconfirmed source of information that some groups are actively working among youngsters encouraging conversions by such technique and that young men engaged in such pursuits are said to be receiving funds from abroad directly or indirectly.
He was asked to conduct enquiries about these unconfirmed sources of information but one month later, he still could only tell the High Court that there was no concrete evidence of any such thing as Love Jihad, as the reports he had were not backed with supporting evidence to come to a positive finding.
So Kishwar is deliberately misleading readers when she says that the judge in this instance ‘ruled that there were indications of forceful conversion under the garb of love in the state with the blessings of certain political outfits.’
What Justice Shankaran did say was in a later development, (December 2009) when the Association for Human Rights demanded a withdrawal of the terms ‘love jihad’ and ‘Romeo jihad’ used by the Court. In this statement (not a ‘ruling’) the judge expressed his personal views that the police reports were unsatisfactory, and refused to take back the terms. This is the judge who had ordered the arrest of two Muslim men who had married non-Muslim women, all adults, on the basis of complaints from the girls’ families. His utterance of biased personal views cannot be taken as ‘proof’ of ‘Love Jihad’ any more than countless misogynist and casteist utterances by our Honourable Judges can be taken as proof that raped women ‘ask for it,’ or as proof that ‘upper caste men would not even touch lower caste women, let alone rape them’, as the Rajasthan High Court ruled in Bhanwari Devi’s case.
Another link that was sent in response to my previous post was this:
Over 2500 women converted to Islam in Kerala since 2006, says Oommen Chandy
If you actually go this link, you find that Oommen Chandy was giving a simple factual answer in the state legislature about the number of conversions to Islam, Christianity and Hinduism in Kerala, and he also stated very unequivocally that there is no evidence of forced conversions at all. Now, there are those who find the larger number of conversions to Islam as compared to Hinduism alarming, and just the fact of conversions is enough to ring warning bells. But I hold, as any citizen of a democracy should, that people willingly convert for various reasons, and it is their democratic right to do so.
Which brings me to the third point in the new and improved formula – we don’t mind inter-faith marriage (yeah, right! – to use a popular phrase in American English, the language in which the PM’s blogs are written:), it is the cheating we mind. So okay, some Muslim men may be promising to marry women with whom they enter into affairs and then abandon – no non-Muslim men do this? Seriously? Innumerable cases of alleged rape in once-consensual relationships reach the courts, with women claiming ‘sex under false promise of marriage’ – courts sometimes rule it is rape, and sometimes not, and I will only state here that most feminists including myself, are uncomfortable with this claim of ‘rape in retrospect’ by women who have been abandoned by their lovers. But that is not my point here. My point is that this business of men promising marriage and backing out is routine, and by no means restricted to Muslim men/non-Muslim women.
The funnier part of Kishwar’s assertion though, is her reference to the Akal Takht taking seriously reports that Pakistani youth are seducing non-Muslim girls to convert them to Islam and ‘use them in jihadi activities.’ But after all that excitement what happens to them?
Some of these girls were later dumped by their husbands in Pakistan, where their in-laws have been using them as domestic slaves.
That sounds pretty much like a routine marriage to me! Men marrying women to act as domestic slaves for their families while they earn their livelihoods (and often carry on in other relationships) abroad. Want to do a survey of how many marriages like this exist across the spectrum of religious identity? And supposing these wives/domestic slaves were Muslim rather than non-Muslim, Kishwar would think it’s fine?
Probably she would, because she also holds that elopements are not okay, and that marriage without the ‘blessings of family elders’ is to be avoided. So these ‘family elders’ – would these be the folk who…umm… like, kill their children for marrying without their blessings?
The fourth claim draws endlessly on the Rotherham paedophile ring run by British Pakistani men, in which between 1997 and 2013, about 1400 girls were sexually abused. It is claimed that clear indications of such activity were ignored because of ‘institutionalised political correctness’ which suggests that Muslims were being protected. I would make two points here:
i) It has been pointed out by many that ignoring complaints of sexual abuse is more than common, indeed it is routine, regardless of the race of the alleged abuser. Women and children who claim sexual abuse are rarely believed, this is a well known fact. In addition, the Rotherham children are from the most deprived backgrounds and this is the reason, it is felt, the Council didn’t take notice, not because the criminals were Muslim, although the general apathy towards the issue could have been fed additionally for some officials, by fear of being seen as racist.
There were many other reasons why Rotherham authorities looked the other way:
Some police officers viewed the teenage female victims as promiscuous and the sexual encounters they had with adult males as consensual, therefore not criminal.
Overworked police and child services workers did not always follow up on cases due to fear of increased workload.
Many of the victims entered the system when their families reported them missing. But police viewed investigating missing persons cases as a waste of time.
ii) Organized sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children is so routine that it should break your heart – unless you choose to focus exclusively on Muslim men who do this, in which case it can fuel your righteous anger – not at men who carry out sexual abuse – but at Muslim men.
Here are four random stories of organized sexual abuse of children and young women that have nothing to do with Muslims:
a) A ‘powerful elite’ of at least 20 prominent establishment figures formed a VIP paedophile ring that abused children for decades, a whistle-blower claimed today.
· Peter McKelvie – the former child protection officer who first raised the alarm about high profile individuals engaged in child sex abuse – said senior politicians, military figures and even people linked to the Royal Family are among the alleged abusers.
b) The Suryanelli sex abuse case in which a 16 year old girl was abducted and prostituted to several men over 40 days in Kerala
c) A Canadian led police bust of an international child sex abuse ring, has led to 350 arrests, including 66 Australian men.
d) Prakashanand Saraswati led one of the top Hindu temples in the United States until a jury convicted him of molesting children and he took off for Mexico.
What is my point? That sexual abuse is common, and largely goes undetected and unpunished, and that concern about sexual abuse should make us think about misogyny and patriarchy, and violence against women and children, not about a specific religious group.
Of course, in addition, Kishwar makes the hilarious claim that
· The Indian government is similarly turning a blind eye to this menace out of fear of being dubbed anti-Muslim.
This government – the Modi government – “fears” being dubbed anti-Muslim? Being anti-Muslim is its proudly proclaimed USP! I am literally speechless.
And finally, the IBN7 ‘expose’, and the videos of women talking about their experience of love jihad:
Love Jihad in India exposed by IBN 7. From the content it appears to have been made in October 2009, at the time the Police presented its report to the Kerala High Court saying there was no evidence of Love Jihad in the state, but the video was uploaded on July 22, 2013.
This “Investigation” by IBN 7 is certainly shocking, but not for the reason you’d imagine. In the entire video of about 30 minutes there is not one shred of evidence presented. All you have is an extremely high pitched commentary by IBN reporters that claims the existence of a widespread ring of Islamic Love Jihad – Jis Ka “Baakayda Manual Bhi Hai” – this manual is not shown to us, in fact, no evidence at all is shown to us. Indeed, after a series of claims and assertions, the commentary actually confesses that off camera, the police tell us the names of many organizations involved in this, but ‘saboot na hone ke chalte‘ (because there is no proof) we cannot reveal those names!
But it’s worse than giving us no evidence. There is outright misrepresentation of what people say. At one point, claiming to show us a Love Jihad Ke Haathon Barbad Ladki, there is a glimpse of a pixellated face and a girl’s voice says the following words in Malayalam “through the use of mobile phones, then in schools, through friends, in ice cream parlours, theatres, in these sorts of places…” it’s only a fragment, one cannot make out the context of what she is saying. Off camera a man’s voice asks something I couldn’t catch. She replies “...there is attraction…”
But on the screen appear in Hindi, as she is speaking, the words: Meri Usse Mulaqaat Ek Bus Stop Par Hui Thi. Vo Roz Mere Peechhe Aata Tha. Kisi Tarah Mera Number Uske Haath Lag Gaya. Voh Roz Phone Karne Laga. Mujhe Laga Ki Vo Mujhe Pyar Karta Hai, Par Ye Meri Galat Phehmi Thi…” (I met him at a bus stop. He used to follow me every day. Somehow he got my number. He phoned me every day. I thought he loved me, but it was my misunderstanding….)
The viewer is led to believe that the Hindi words are a translation of what the woman says in Malayalam, even though her voice stops after that fragment. There is also a reference to a diary of the woman, but no pages from it are shown to us. The Hindi script on screen goes on to detail a situation in which this woman is kept in a house, many men come to her in cars, and so on. Not that any of this, even the Hindi words on the screen, mention Muslims or conversion, but this does not stop the IBN 7 reporters and anchor from repeating in a high decibel way, ad nauseam, that they are exposing through this, the Love Jihad campaign.
From other voice fragments in women’s voices (in Malayalam) it is clear that they are talking about common seduction techniques – for example, that men give clothes and cosmetics as gifts, take the girls on picnics and so on. Again, what the context is in which they say this is not clear. But while they do not mention Love Jihad or Muslims, the reporters’ commentaries, the Hindi voice-overs and Hindi text on screen keeps linking all this to both. The reporter says he has toured all over Kerala and found hundreds of girls are missing – what does this prove? Nothing, of course, but sure enough, the links are made by the anchor and reporter, to you guessed it, Love Jihad.
In the most shocking piece of dishonesty, the commentary presents the pixellated face supposedly of a father waiting for his daughter who went missing six months ago. The voice-over says that their home was then attacked by armed men who threatened them against going to the police, and told them they would never see their daughter again. The mother’s pixellated face and voice then appear, and what we heard in the voice-over is written in Hindi as she speaks, as if she is saying ‘then our house was attacked’ and so on.
But what she is actually saying in Malayalam is this:
· “She went away of her own wish. She did come back briefly once, and we tried our best to persuade her to stay. If she didn’t want to stay with us, we said we would put her up in the convent, but…”
If this blatant dishonesty is not a fit case for taking IBN 7 to the Press Council what is?
The first is clearly a young woman being harangued and harassed by two male relatives who sit on either side, only their voices can be heard, growing louder and louder, as they wail and cry, one of them collapsing with his head on her knee, “Mat Kar Aise“, you hear at one point. She looks pale, harassed, does not look at them, once she touches the head of the man who collapses on her knee, once she closes both her ears in pain, as if she cannot bear to listen to this anymore. In the final shot, the camera pans outwards and you see they are in the office of a police officer whose uniformed legs are clearly visible under his desk, in front of which this drama is being recorded.
Clearly more a victim of her family’s strong arm tactics and emotional blackmail than of Love Jihad!
The second is a sad young woman, her face and voice swollen with tears, who tells an interviewer (off camera) of being left by a man who had promised to marry her. Asked for her name she gives a Hindu name, his name is Muslim (she was not converted, then!) The interviewer asks her, did you introduce any of your friends to him? No, she did not. Did he introduce you to his friends (from the IBN7 narrative we know that taking these girls into the network of terrorists is part of the Love Jihad campaign), and she thinks and then says innocently, yes, I met one friend. What was his name? Asks the interviewer. Sameer, she says. Hm, Muslim? Yes. (Oh thank god, you can almost hear the interviewer thinking). What kinds of cars did he have? He did not have a car at all. The interviewer tries to elicit the kinds of sensational elements he needs to hear, and fails each time.
It’s just a sad familiar story of an affair that ended. That’s all.
But the thing about links – they only need to circulate. You don’t need to listen to them or read them. “IBN7 exposes Love Jihad” – that link is sufficient. “Videos of actual victims of Love Jihad”. Just those words will do.
Meanwhile, Delhi elections loom, Trilokpuri burns, as doubtless, wills many other parts of Delhi. The role of Hindutvavaadi organizations is again clear in setting up an atmosphere of tension and violence:
· According to a police officer, a Mata Ki Chowki…was organised in front of a mosque at the Block 15-20- 27 junction of Trilokpuri on Diwali night which was objected to by local Muslims. Heated arguments between them resulted in stone pelting and burning of a shop.
· Soon, the police intervened and controlled the situation, he said.
· “Tension mounted once again on Friday night after former BJP MLA Sunil Kumar Vaidya reached the spot with his supporters and announced to build a temple there. I have not personally heard it from him but have got several complaints. This aggravated the tension in the area with members of both communities started pelting stones on each other and opening gun fire. Fifteen people, including 13 policemen and two locals, have been injured,” the officer, who did not want to be named, told Firstpost.
It is all so much worse than we predicted, and there is no joy in saying we told you so.