India’s Long Standing Jihad Against Love


Hinduism has always been under threat by some force or other. The latest and most urgent one, by the sounds of it, is love jihad. It is a plot, according to protectors of the Hindu religion, to take over Hinduism. The aggressor, in this case is the Muslim samaj, which is secretly plotting to take over hinduism by seducing Hindu women and tricking them into sleeping with Muslim men. Naturally, once married, she will convert to Islam and their children will be brought up as Muslims. Combine this with the claim of high birth rates among Muslims and we’re looking at a future in which Hindus will be outnumbered by Muslims in India. There is no telling what will happen to Hindus once they are a minority. Perhaps India will no longer be a ‘heaven for minorities’ if Hindus were the real minority.

Of course, none of this is true. There is not a shred of evidence apart from the raving fantasies of Hindu right wing leaders. I have no intention here of playing their game and getting stuck trying to refute these arguments. One, because the onus of evidence is with the accusers and their scant arguments have been refuted by many. Second, because taking it as a serious thing to be argued is in itself an insult to my basic sense of humanity. Third, because the purpose of roping people into these arguments is to provide fuel to flames.

What is far more interesting to me is what such paranoid conspiracies say about the people that come up with them and the community that so readily accepts them. The way men are socialized in this caste society leaves no doubt that love jihad is a product of the Hindu mind. The Hindu mind is not restricted to Hindus, but is generally prevalent within this society that is overly obsessed with the sex life of individuals. This society seeks to surveil and control every interaction one has with members of the opposite sex. Recently, the colonial era rule criminalizing homosexuality was officially repealed. Yet today, new laws to confront the imaginary threat of love jihad are being concocted. No heterosexual relationship between consenting adults has ever been illegal in the republic. Yet, we see regular news about honour killings. All of us have stories, first hand or second hand, of people being threatened, beaten, abused by parents of their unmarried partner or sometimes by their own parents for having a relationship with somebody they weren’t supposed to. All of us have stories about the scandal an inappropriate pairing has caused.  The fact that people still dare to love in this society is itself amazing. From the minute we’re born we are drip fed lessons about the labyrinthine mores and rules of this society. And so much of it is basically ‘You’ve got to hide your love away’. In such a society, you can introduce all the progressive legislation you want, you will end up with nothing more than ‘palaces  upon a dung heap’ (Ambedkar).

Why indian society has these rules is not hard to understand for those who’ve read Ambedkar. In a society made up of caste, endogamy is the only way to maintain the status quo. Hinduism being nothing but a collection of castes, enforced endogamy is essential for the survival and the maintenance of Hindu culture. So Indian culture has a long standing tradition of Jihad against love. Since its roots lie in the instinct to maintain caste hierarchies (a Hindu concept) I prefer to think of it as a product of the Hindu brain.

However, neither the caste system nor love jihad make a lot of sense without understanding how masculinity is shaped in a caste society. Whether it is subject to the peculiarities of a caste society or not, masculinity is a brittle thing. The fear, insecurity and isolation of being a man drive people into doing all kinds of crazy things. Men are trained to see women as acquisitions and other men as rivals for that acquisition. Acquisitions are not meant to reject you.

So, this case of Tauseef shooting a woman who rejected him has nothing to do with either of their religious identities. It has everything to do with the way men are socialized. Boys spend their adolescence hearing about all the tips and tricks they can employ to acquire women. They categorize women based on how acquirable they are. Very early one they learn to despair and commiserate about how difficult it is to understand women. Of course, the way the case is interpreted in 21st century India, aka Ram Rajya, is always through the fact that he is Muslim and she was Hindu. Tauseef only saw himself as a man. The way Indian men are socialized is no different from the way he has been. Rejection is shame. A sense of self worth is mediated through your acquisitions – prominent among them being a woman.  Any Indian man who tells you otherwise is lying. And the Indian man who tells you that it was about Tauseef’s religion is blending masculine insecurities with brahminical bigotry the way only an Indian man can – by finding in Tauseef’s unfulfilled desires, some cynical ploy to topple intricately constructed centuries hierarchies that give the savarna man all the advantages in the world.

The people claiming love jihad is a threat are right about one thing. The Hindu renaissance that has begun since 2014 will be destroyed if people are simply allowed to love anyone they want. Valmiki’s Ramayana begins with the disfigurement of an asura woman and ends with a savarna woman being put on a pyre as a test of her loyalty.  No wonder then that the most well advertised campaign in Ram Rajya, for women’s safety only sees women as ‘betis’ to be protected and educated. It does not see them as individuals. Any agency on their part would bring the whole thing down for they are the weak link through which the social barriers can be destroyed. It is no surprise then that the Chairperson for the NCW is taking the problem of love jihad as something within the ambit of ‘beti bachao’.  So yes, if we want to protect Hindu culture, the rights of the Hindu man on the Hindu woman, we absolutely need laws against ‘love jihad’. It is only by fighting these imaginary threats that the fragile Savarna man can continue to assert and justify his dominance on the country.

Siddhant is a PhD student in ecology at the University of Minnesota.



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