Year ender 2017: Love Jihad - The cost of marrying your choice in India

The Asian Age.  | Suman Quazi

India, All India

An analysis conducted by Pew Research Center, looking into 198 countries ranked India as 4th worst in the world for religious intolerance.

On May 24, 2017 Kerala High Court ruled the marriage between Hadiya and Shafeen Jahan ‘null and void’ condemning it as love jihad. (Photo: File)

Mumbai: In 2014 India ushered into a new government with hopes for a better tomorrow which we colloquially referred to as ‘achche din’ and ‘vikas.’ What we got was love jihad and cow vigilantism.

It is hard to believe that a country that rose up from the ashes left behind by the British colonial government -- a country which had come way past being ‘under-developed’ and was well into the process of becoming a ‘developed’ nation, a country which contains in its essence, its constitution, a tenet that attributes to it, its democratic character, secularism -- would fare so badly in terms of religious violence and yet, it isn’t.

According to Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, limitations on free speech and violence against religious minorities, led by vigilante groups which claimed allegiance to ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, have been gnawing issues for the country this year.

“In 2016, students were accused of sedition for expressing their views; people who raised concerns over challenges to civil liberties were deemed anti-Indian; Dalits and Muslims were attacked on suspicion they had killed, stolen, or sold cows for beef; and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) came under pressure due to India’s restrictive foreign funding regulations,” the report said.

Keeping this in mind, it isn’t surprising that ‘Love Jihad’ was back in the news after creating a storm in 2015 and lying dormant till it made a resounding comeback right where it all started – Kerala.

Love Jihad is a phenomenon (the existence and extent of which remains disputed even after two years into the controversy) which entails the marrying of men and women from other communities, feigning love and using it as a pretext for forced or manipulated conversions into Islam.

Touted mostly by the saffron brigade, most allegations of Love Jihad in the country have failed to corroborate with conclusive evidence. Notwithstanding this, love jihad and insinuations related to the same have led to many incidents of violence, often spiralling out into something way worse.

Here are the two major cases that rocked the very core of India:

Kerala Love Jihad:

Hadiya denied the allegations and accused her family of wrongly separating her from her husbadn. (Photo: File)

On May 24, 2017 Kerala High Court ruled the marriage between Akhila Ashokan (alias Hadiya) and Shafeen Jahan ‘null and void’ condemning it as love jihad. Jahan moved the Supreme Court against the ‘arbitrary annulment’ of his marriage to Hadiya and her confinement in her parents’ home. Following this the Supreme court ordered a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the matter. The NIA said that it was not an ‘isolated incident’ and that it depicted a pattern gaining currency in Kerala. Hadiya herself had denied the allegations, accusing her parents of wrongful separation from her husband. Hadiya, a homeopathy student has returned to college and been freed from her parents’ ‘captivity.’ Her college has allowed her to meet Jahan. The questions surrounding the legality and status of their marriage remain shrouded by clouds of confusion.

Rajasthan Love Jihad:

Afrazul Khan, a migrant labourer from West Bengal’s Malda district who was working as a mason in Rajasthan. Khan was hacked and burnt alive by one Shambhulal Regar at Rajasamand in Rajasthan. The brutal murder was captured on camera by Shambhulal’s teenaged nephew. (Photo: File)

On 6th December, Mohammad Afrazul, a labourer was mercilessly killed in what can be called one of India’s most gruesome hate crimes -- amid a spate of religiously motivated killings -- in Rajsamand, Rajasthan. After killing him, Afrazul’s assailant, identified as Shambhulal Regar circulated on social media a video in which he hacks Afrazul to death with a cleaver, and then sets him on fire. This is followed by Regar’s incendiary speech wherein he justifies the act, claiming that he was saving a ‘Hindu sister,’ and warns Muslims saying, “This is what will happen to you if you do ‘love jihad’ in our country.”

An analysis conducted by Pew Research Center, looking into 198 countries ranked India as fourth worst in the world for religious intolerance, after Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, where sectarian violence is widespread, Quartz reported.

According to this analysis, religiously motivated crimes and socially hostile incidents increased in 2015 for the first time in 2015 after 3 years. Hate crimes, mob violence, communal violence, fundamentalist terror and subjugation of women on the pretext of religion have been on a steady rise across the globe.

Hate crimes in US, minority lynchings and killings in India and the Rohingya crisis all point toward a nerve-racking truth – the world has been more volatile and less tolerant through 2017.