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India’s apex court has – thankfully – put an interim break to the brouhaha over the much-publicized Hadiya conversion-and-marriage case. Whatever will be the final verdict in this case to be pronounced by the Supreme Court, there is one section, the key benefactor, that is rejoicing with a perverse pleasure from the rooftop. It is the Sangh Parivar, for whom the conversion and marriage of Hadiya (formerly Akhila) is a virtual manna from heaven in order to cause communal polarization and demonize the Muslim community, and, in the process, achieve political gains.

The votaries of Hindu nationalism have enormously succeeded, with their sinister and sustained propaganda, in marketing the Hadiya issue as a case of ‘love jihad’ and ‘forced conversion’. It has been a communal serendipity for the communalists as it contained all the paraphernalia required for their ‘love jihad’ plot: a Hindu girl’s religious conversion, and marriage to a Popular Front activist, and the annulling of the marriage by the Kerala High Court as ‘sham’.

The question is: Is it a case of ‘love jihad’? First of all, it wasn’t a ‘love marriage’ in the popular imagination. After Akhila converted to become Hadiya, she found her spouse on a matrimonial website after many months of groom hunt. They went through all the requisite rituals of a typical third-world match-making which would culminate in an ‘arranged marriage’.

But the rightwing extremists still tom-tom this as a ‘textbook case’ of ‘love jihad’. What on earth it means? For the uninitiated lot and late-comers, here’s a recap. Long time ago, the RSS and the BJP gave a detailed account of how a ‘love jihad’ looks like. The script goes like this: Extremist Muslim organizations, flush with plenty of cash and eager for an Islamic caliphate, deploy good-looking Muslim boys (do remember, charming Muslim guys are hard to find on the streets these days because all of them are busy luring Hindu girls with their street-smart guile!) with the required ‘love gear’ such as truckloads of dough  and flashy superbikes to lure Hindu girls, love them, convert them and marry them (and send them to Islamic State camps abroad to work as sex-slaves or cooks, as per the remixed version).

The snake-oil sellers of ‘love jihad’ want us to believe in the insanity that all the Hindu girls are super-imbeciles waiting to be lured by the ‘love jihad Romeo squad’ on the prowl in speeding bikes! There cannot be any more absurd argument than this: the very notion that Hindu girls have no mind or personality of their own and are so vulnerable and brainless to fall for the love jihad Romeos. The Hindutva brigade’s nonsensical theory ultimately belittles not just the Hindu womenfolk; it patently is an affront to the entire womanhood. It essentially treats them as cattle fodder sans any self-respect or dignity. But in this country such tripe sells much faster and easier as exemplified from the Hadiya case.

The Kerala High Court through its judgment on the 24th May, 2017 has maintained that the 24-year-old wannabe Homeopath converted to Islam under the influence of her college hostel-mates.

From the judgment: “Ms. Akhila is the only child of Sri.Ashokan, the petitioner, and Smt. Ponnamma. They both belong to the Hindu (Ezhava) community and hail from Vaikom in Kottayam District. Ms. Akhila was therefore brought up in accordance with the beliefs and rituals of Hindu religion. At present, she is aged 24 years and has completed her degree course in Homeopathic Medicine, BHMS (Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery). She had joined the Shivaraj Homeopathy Medical College, Salem for her BHMS course. It is not in dispute that, though she had initially resided in the College Hostel, she later on took a house on rent outside the College and started residing there with four other friends. Two of her friends were Hindus, while the other two were Muslims. Among them, she became very close with Ms.Jaseena. She had accompanied Ms.Jaseena to her house and stayed with her a number of times. Her acquaintance with Ms.Jaseena attracted her to the tenets and beliefs of Islamic religion.”

So, it was a bogus claim by the extremists. There was no charming Romeo in this case as per the ‘love jihad’ plot set in the RSS lab! And there was no force involved either, as Hadiya has testified before the court and talked to the media in Kochi en route to her Delhi trip to appear before the SC.

In the May order, the High Court, acting on the Habeas corpus filed by the father, annulled Hadiya’s marriage to Shefin Jahan and sent her to live with her parents against her wish. The division bench was perturbed at the marriage during the pendency of the case, which it suspected to have been done “with the object of transporting her out of India.” Here the question is: Does the law prevent a woman from marrying criminals? While donning the garb of an overprotective parent exuding plenty of condescending parental love and unadulterated patriarchy, the court cloyingly expressed doubts about the ‘criminal background’ of Jahan. The 95-page-long order, which was unpredictably schmaltzy in its ‘parental love’, triggered debates about the constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty and right of an individual – here a sane adult woman – to choose her life. Later, the Supreme Court rightly asked “even if the husband has a criminal record, does the girl not have a right to marry a criminal?”

Much before the case reached the Supreme Court, the well-oiled communal rumor-mongering mechanics from the Hindutva camp had launched their handiworks, ably abetted by a section of the pliant national media that glibly sucked themselves up into the vortex of the love jihad narrative ad nauseam, in the process helping the extreme rightwing elements to further their nasty agenda. (There was hardly any mainstream media headline without this ‘Kerala Love Jihad case’ prelude). Rancid social media trolls that teetered on the brink of misogyny and profanity were produced in abundance on Hadiya by the foot soldiers of the Sangh Parivar.

The Sangh Parivar’s was a braying campaign at full throttle, deploying even the official arms. National Woman’s Commission chairperson visited Hadiya at her home and ‘revealed’ to journalists that forced conversions are galore in Kerala; she was just parroting what the BJP state/national leaders have been uttering for quite a while. They portrayed Kerala as the recruitment ground for IS, and, pinpointing Hadiya’s case, sought NIA probe. The NIA, deputed by the SC to probe the case, after enquiring into the alleged terror links of Jahan and other related aspects, submitted before the apex court a 100-page sealed document; and on November 27, the NIA lawyer argued before the SC that Jahan has terror links. But NIA is yet to explain why then he isn’t booked till date if there are incriminating evidences against him. After all, ours is a country of able-bodied investigating officers who have perfected the impeccable art of putting innocents behind bars (sometimes for years sans trials) on fabricated, flimsy or non-existent evidences.

Nobody is saying suspected terror links, if any, or any such illegalities involved in this matter should not be investigated, but not at the cost of a woman’s life and her right to dignity in a democratic polity. Not by allowing rightwing extremists to pollute the society and benefit. What we are witnessing is communal razzmatazz with the Hindutva extremists using the Hadiya case to advance its ‘love jihad’ charade, seeking to instill fears among the Hindu parents to doubt even genuine friendships or organic interactions between their girls with Muslim boys, and to ‘otherise’ Muslims further using the ‘love jihad’ bogey across the country in general and in Kerala in particular.

The whole episode is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs in Modi’s fast-polarizing India. What would have ended as the disposal of a Habeas Corpus writ was blown up into a national communal pot by the Hindutva brigade, effectively assisted by an Islamophobic NIA and sections of national media. The ‘love-jihad’ frenzy – which sadly is back in communal vogue – will be used by the peddlers of hate politics to further their crooked political agendas in the days to come.

(The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist.) 

 

 

One Comment

  1. A well balanced but honest way of narrating the truth.
    Love is blind. But so is terrorism, nationalism and communalism.
    The sabotage of human rights is the end product.

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