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Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions Author(s): CHARU GUPTA Source: Economic and Political

Weekly, Vol. 44, No. 51 (DECEMBER 19-25, 2009), pp. 13-15 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25663907 . Accessed: 31/03/2013 01:49
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COMMENTARY

Muslim Men: Hindu Women, Love Jihad and Conversions


CHARU GUPTA _ love and marriages are a

issue and its language to similar "abduc tion"and conversion campaigns launched by Arya Samaj and otherHindu revivalist bodies in the 1920s innorth India, todraw sharper lines between Hindus and Mus lims.Seen throughtheprismof a historical perspective, the dichotomy and falseness

The fakeclaim by theHindu rightthatthere isa "Love Jihad" which is forcing organisation
Hindu women to convert to Islam

the 1920s innorth India against


alleged 1920 or 2009, Hindu "abductions". Whether patriarchal

throughfalse expressionsof love is similartoa campaign in

Hindu right of theallegationsof the appear more It also starkly. points to how certain Inter-religious troupeshave been deployed repeatedly in They challenge various trickyterrain. norms and customs circumstancesby Hindu groups, different and arouse pas sions of religious fundamentalists.The where the body of theHindu woman has both claims to communi has oftenresulted become a site for "threat" of such intimacies and in "constructed" the honour,as well as for tyhomogeneity campaigns, expressing
anxieties and fears of conservative forces. In cracks within its articulation.

Hindu right has been India, the particularly


a master at creating panics and around expres

1920s Events In the 1920s, militant Hindu assertion reached new heights,especially in thecon movement to textof shuddhi (purification

sionsof love,be itthe ValentineDay, homo


sexual love or inter-caste inter-religious

notions appear deeply entrenched in such campaigns: imagesof Hindu women passive victimised at thehands of inscrutable
abound, and any

Muslims

Hindu rightis the alleged "Love Jihad"or "Romeo Jihad" organisation, supposed to

romance,posing themas one of thebiggest threats to cohesive community identities reclaim those who had converted from Hinduism to other religions)and sangath and boundaries. The latest in such constructs by the an (organisationindefence ofHindu inter ests)movements launchedby the Arya Sa
There were unprecedented communal maj.

women exercising possibilityof theirlegitimate rightto loveand theirrightto choice is ignored.

have been launchedbyMuslim fundamen Muslim men to convert talists and youthful Hindu and Christian women to Islam and expressions of false throughtrickery
love. In Kerala, Kamataka and Delhi, or

clashes inUttar Pradesh.What is signifi cant in the present context is that in this period theHindu woman's body became a
marker

ganisations like the Rashtriya Swayams evak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Sri Ram Sene, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Hindu Janjagruthi Samiti

in ways more aggressive thanbefore.The of orchestrated period witnessed a flurry propaganda campaigns and popular and demagogic appeals by a inflammatory sectionofHindu publicistsand Arya Samaj

to sharpen

communal

boundaries

have been holdingmeetings, distributing against abductions and conversions of Hin court cases, de du women by Muslim goondas, ranging pamphlets and even filing as an that the of from allegations of rape, abduction and part claring organisation,
Islamist conspiracy, has devised plans for elopement, forced sources to luring, conversion, Drawing on love and diverse meet ru compulsive and deceitful religious conver over young women. from clothes, abroad for marriages.

sions by winning are

They even profess thatMuslim youth


receiving funds designer vehicles,

like newspapers, posters,

pamphlets,

ings, handbills, mours

novels, myths,

woo mobile phones and expensive giftsto olise the fieldof everyday representation. women Hindu and lure them away. The Abductions and conversions of Hinduwom a ramifications of such main de campaign for en byMuslims became one of the
fostering tones and hate, for its anti-women panic, over abound. for creating been

purchasing

and gossip, the campaign was able to operate in a public domain, and monop

The protests against such a vicious


campaign have many. Various

terminants of Hindu identity and conscious ness in theperiod, providing Hindu publi
cists with a common reference point. The

human rights groups, student organisa tions and secular bodies have voiced
their concerns Hindu Cham Gupta {charu7@h0tmail.com) history at the University of Delhi. weekly Economic& Political DBS3 teaches At over this hate campaign one of organisations. the same time, as a historian, is

abducted and converted Hinduwoman was metamorphosed into a symbol of both


sacredness and humiliation, and hence

of the victimisation of thewhole Hindu


community. Tracts appeared, written exclusively

struck by theuncanny resemblance of the


19, 2009 vol xliv no 51 13

around theHindu female victim and the

December

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COMMENTARY e

== Hindu wombs, and thus exercise greater


control over women's Hindu reproductive numbers. construct an image capa cities to enhance Both

Muslim male abductor.They had extreme One was calledHindu ly provocative titles.

Auraton ki Loot, which denouncedMuslim for propaganda proselytising female


preys. Yet another was named Hindu Stri

yon ki Loot keKaran, which was an Arya


Samajist tract, showing was how to save "our"

of the Muslim male as aggressive, and


broadcast tive motifs, a series of stereotypes creating a common and repeti "enemy" -

the campaigns

Hindu women were being circulated.The while focusingitsan presentcampaign too, on the receives itsemotional ger Muslims, It from victim. the is bonding impossiblefor
Hindu groups to conceive elope that Hindu or convert. wom Thus en can voluntarily every romance,

ladies frombecoming Muslim. The con


verted woman a potential site of out

theOther.The luringofHindu women by Muslim men is stated to demonstrate the "lack of character"of the sexuallycharged, lustful Muslimmen, violating thepure body
of Hindu dus came women. In the 1920s, many abductions and Hin con to perceive

rage of familyorder and religious senti ment, strengtheningthe drive forHindu mobilisation. Allegations of abductions caused a number of localised affrays, and
even occasional

riagebetween a Hindu woman and a Mus man isrewritten lim byHindu organisations
as forcible conversion. It is also assumed

love, elopement

and mar

mere act ofmarryingand staying that the with a Muslim ensures that thewoman is leadinga dreadful lifeand her unhappiness
is ensured. Behind it are also grave anxieties

man had elopedwith a Hindu woman.

March Mathura in pur inJune 1924 and in was a it where that Muslim 1928, reported

riot, for example

in Kan

versions

of Hindu women

as a characteristic

Muslim activity. Such constructs had deeper historical roots. Even noted Hindi writers likeBharatenduHarishchandra (1850-85), Pratap Narain Misra (1856-94) and Radha Charan Goswami (1859-1923) often por medieval Muslim ruleas a chronicle trayed

Striking Similarities, False Claims In the unfoldingof the tales in the 1920s
and in 2009, there are certain common

ofHinduwomen adapting to Muslim ways. Hindu organisations are deeply troubled with fantasies about possible relations between Hindu women and Muslim men. ofHinduwomen as victims of false Portrayal not somuch topro love shows theneed felt
by restricting their movement, as various

Hindu groups has been that the conver sions ofHindu women are linked with en
hancing Humara Muslim numbers. A tract pub

strains. Iwill highlightjust a few. In both campaigns,one of the argumentsgivenby

of rape and abduction of Hindu women. The first generationof popular novelists in Hindi - Devakinandan Khatri, Kishorilal
Goswami and

tectthem but todisciplineand controlthem

lished in 1924 from Kanpur and titled


Bhishan Haas dwelt on the cata

started writing in the 1890s, depicted simi lar prejudices. Lecherous behaviour,high
sexual gious appetites, a life of luxury, and characters. These reli fanaticism were seen as the dominant stereo

Gangaprasad

Gupta

publicplaces are declared unsafe forthem.

who

Reinforcing Patriarchy The invocation of fear of elopement and


conversion of Hindu women and related

strophicdecline ofHindus due to increas It claimed thata number ofAryanwomen were entering the homes ofyavanas and mlecchas (termsused for Muslims in such
writings), and reading nikah with them, pro numbers. later banned, A ing conversions of Hindu women to Islam.

concernswith Hindu female purityallow


Hindu male

traits of Muslim

Muslims were strength typesof licentious ened, with new contours added in the
1920s. It was claimed that now

sert itself in a public-political domain in


more forceful ways. The converted Hindu

virility

and

prowess

to reas

and all Muslims were indulging in such Raza Ali, the deputy collector of Kanpur, was accused of abducting, seducing and Hindi press launched a virulentcampaign
against duction him, using the case to argue that ab to activities were not just confined concerting a Hindu girl. The vernacular practices. In 1924 there was a case inwhich

ordinary

woman is a potential site of outrage of family order and religious sentiment,


strengthening assertions community series addressed males. and the drive for patriarchal of family and a whole which toHindu organised in Banaras restoration

ducing gaubhakshak (cow-killers) chil


dren, poem increasing Muslim and written in 1928

honour.

In the 1920s, were organised, exclusively Sabha men

of meetings

called Chand Musalmanon ki Harkaten, stated: Tadad badhane ke Ryedial chalai,


Muslim banane ke liye scheme banayi.... Ek

themselves

In 1925 the Hindu corps of Hindu

volunteer

crease their make people population and to Muslims. They roam with carts incitiesand put under theveil andmade Muslim). Pro Hindu organisations in 2009 too, have claimed that forcedconversionsof Hindu
women in the name of love are part of an to increase Mus issues at stake here are a picture of numerical international lim population. conspiracy The villages and take away women, who are

kon ko gali gaon mein lekar ghumate hain, parde ko dal Muslim aurat bethate hain (Muslims are making new schemes to in

to prevent Hindu women from eloping but covered were with Muslim men. Theywere particularly held against all of them.Meetings at railway stations. In Allahabad active Raza Ali. In 2009 too,Shahan Sha ofKerala con was charged forforcibly notices and appeals and Jaunpur, various abductingand Methula, a Hindu girl,and similar were addressed to Hindu men, asking verting women and them tokeep a watch on their charges were made against him.
low caste or loutish Muslims,

Whether it is 1920 or 2009, Hindu notions appear tobe deeply en patriarchal


trenched. In both campaigns, images of pas

prevent their interactionwith Muslim


And in 2009 and too, the Hindu preserve woman is regarded as an exclusive

men.

of the

increase in Muslims but also to lamentthe nored. In Meerut during June 1924, hand supposed decline inHindu numbersand to bills,meetings and rumoursdealing with mourn the potential loss of child-bearing the alleged kidnapping and conversionof
December 14 19, 2009

not only to construct

Hindu women at thehands sivevictimised Muslims abound, and any of inscrutable ofwomen exercisingtheirlegiti possibility mate rightto love and rightto choice is ig

Hindu

man,

as his exclusive prerogative. is identified One of the arguments grounded by the


Hindu protect communal organisations any here steps is that to are justi "our" women, is involved at war. weekly Economic& Political

safeguarding

her virtue

fied. What

is a self-image

of a community

vol xliv no 51 DECS

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Many Culprits It is ironical that the State and even the Muslim, additionalanxietieshave been cre were such generalisations hand in the conversions, 1920s, made, judiciaryseem tohave oftenbeen complicit ated of a foreign and almost everyday theHindu publicists and colludedwith Hindu communalists in and the Muslim youth receiving fundsfrom concrete todelegitimisesuch love. In the abroad to lure without Hinduwomen. Itappears that statements, published attempting with thephenomenon of proof, of abductions and conversions of 1920s, not only did local newspapers start when confronted sto Hindu women. The newspaperPratap of 28 to Islam, espe conversion from Hinduism giving more and more space to alleged of the ries of abductions law Hindus of Hindu women, kindofHin May 1923called theattention ciallybyHinduwomen, certain ofFyzabad to the seductionofHindu wom The politicsof yers and courts too provided additional dus lose theirlogicalfaculties.
venomous

the general and the abstract.Reckless and


generalisations are made, with

Often thereare not justparticularcases; move fromtheparticularto thereisa ready

Mohan

Kumar was

arrested, who

confessed

that he had poisonedAnitha todeath.

gossip and rumours adding spice. In the

new dimensionsto the lovejihad significant fear, campaign. In the wake of terrorist threatofMuslim fundamentalism and in creasing images of a violent and virulent

Akhil BharatiyaVidyarthiParishad during the present campaign, and distributed in

en, generally byMuhammadans of thedis trict. And again, a pamphlet releasedby the

is inevitably shadowedby a space inwhich abduction and conversion cultural virginity a ranting be In could of with combined present innocence, produced. spectacles myth
times too, the campaign tions against "love of Hindu has organisa takers of violation, invasion, seduction and rape. jihad" some

Anotherpamphletdistributed Hindu by the Samiti in Karnataka claims the Janjagruthi


number to be 30,000 within a year, without conversions

Jawaharlal Nehru University,claims that 4,000 girls have been converted tillnow.

among the judiciary. Thus, the Kamataka


High Court in a recent order asked a 23-year to return in

oldwoman who had convertedto Islam to


a Muslim man home court from Kerala, until stated to her parents' the case was

of communityboundaries. Such couples of familyand reli question the authority

Itcauses grave fearabout breakingdown

marry

gious communities in determining their life. In spite of thishate campaign, actual


incidents of conversions due to romance thread, love together weave a narrative

any proof.The fact that such generalisa


tions about Hindu women's

vestigated. had

The

that the case concerning se

and

which illuminatescertain ruptures in the can now due to "false" love and marriages the besides of unlawful Hindu logic.They are expressionsof trans curity, question be made openlyoftenlegitimises their women". nation of of Questions pub trafficking gressive love.These cases belie the ideal of lic expressionand increases the threshold al security are thusbeingmixed up with a theHindu family and draw attentionto the case a a of public acceptance for them; this also of choice woman's simple girl exercising sexuality, needs and desires. The to makes are them "true". such women her under the law of the here Propagating guaranteed perhaps "using" the instru stories through pamphlets, meetings, land.The State and judiciarythus seem to ments of conversion and elopement as a rumours and everyday conversations fed by be aiding inbuildinga rangeof stereotypes mode of coping with, challenging and,
"national ramifications them, and sustains this as an active cultural, which, mar to an extent provide of Hindu the basic women. gram They therefore political, issue. of conversions

The concrete examples and storiesalso given in both cases have oftenbeen imag
ined, and there is sometimes tasy involved. Thus, 1927, Hindus converted spread immediate evi

have takenon a Hindu patriarchalrole for which is indifferent and even themselves,
intolerant to choices made that by a woman. more such ide Rep have It appears communication, has created and conversions. and events

an oppressive within limits,transgressing social order.They are claiming a limited


arena and of independent conversions action. Such alliances that sometimes suggest

dence toprove thedepth of fallacy and fan


for example, a rumour on 13 April inMuzaffar

are recast to disrupt the logic of identities


communal women boundaries. The actions of these provide communal important, moments discourse of vulnerability and upset the re and conver Particularly

than direct experience, ologies of abductions

in the dominant lentless More

nagar thata Hindu girlhad been forcibly


to Islam and was They being married proceeded in to a Muhammadan.

resentation, fed into each

performance other. Hate

polarisation. elopements

speech

crowds to inspect the alleged pervertand foundthatthegirlhad always been a Mus to thepolice, a Hindu youth accusedMus limvolunteersof kidnappingHindu wom en. This led to a search of theMuslim women, League officeto findthekidnapped which yieldedno traceof them. And inJune 2009,when AnithaofBantwal talukinKar
lim. In Kanpur in 1939, in a statement given

from repeatablespeech,drawing itsstrength


stereotypes and rhetoric. Here too, conver as a are events sions of Hindu general made women are represented Different

is always

sions hint at love and romance.

in a communally charged atmosphere, when maligning of the Muslimmale has ac


quired increasing importance, elopements and inter-reli conver gious marriages,

phenomenon. to appear

a narrative of luring byMuslim male in the name of loveand Hindu female victimhood. In repetition lies itsstrength, and one of the
primary sources of communal power: its

to follow a similar partem

order of rationality to abilityperpetually to renew itselfthrough ferent against efforts nataka went missing, several Sangh parivar as and its a and reiteration, authority supposed categorise, classify project homoge nised community identity. organisationsclaimed thatshewas forcibly truth and "common sense". Women, who converted to Islam by a Pakistan-backed were oftenperceived as victims Hin by the du communalists, professional"jihadist lover".On 4 October A Far More Complex Reality may actually be actors were held on the same. there are crucial continuities be and subjects in their own right protest meetings Though by choosing
on 21 October 2009, uitiH a serial killer tween the two campaigns, there are also elopements and conversions. weekly Economic& Political December 19, 2009 vol xliv no 51 15

sionsdue to loveormaterial and emotional needs posit a different world. They high the and light messy complexitiesof reality a the inchoate of ways life,suggesting dif

However,

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