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Love and riots

Published Sep 12, 2013 07:11am


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NEEMA must be in her 30s and is in love with a Muslim boy whose name she is shy to reveal. She works in Delhi and has two apparent disadvantages. She is a Dalit woman, lowest in India’s caste pyramid, and she walks with a pronounced limp.

When she was in her early teens her grandmother, a housemaid in the neighbourhood, handed her over to my family for safekeeping and grooming. But, sooner than expected, Neema declared she was getting married — to a boy from her community, in her village in Partapgarh.

The marriage broke up within no time. She was beaten and abused by the man who she said was a vagabond and a drunkard.

Neema walked out of the marriage but now there is this Muslim boy from Allahabad who likes her and with whom she has a chat on the phone every day. They met in our ancestral village in Rae Bareli where Neema would routinely travel with my mother who loved her as her own child.

After my mother’s death recently, Neema has been distraught. She has lost her most eclectic anchor and her own family would not allow her to marry a Muslim boy.

If she defied them, she would be thrown out of her village and the community would disown her. She would be an outcaste, and don’t miss the irony. A Dalit girl battered by a man of her community to be declared an outcaste if she was to marry a Muslim.

Two facts are evident here. Large swathes of Muslims are getting to be the new untouchables in India, deemed lower in the social hierarchy than the Dalits. Their social isolation in Gujarat, for example, appears more or less complete.

The other point evident from Neema’s story is that Dalits, who under Bhim Rao Ambedkar strove for a separate identity from their caste Hindu tormentors, are being insidiously wooed or driven to ‘become’ Hindus. In fact, the shuddhi karan or purification has been a keystone for religious revivalism now afflicting India hugely.

The campaign is seen as a foil to the Dalits’ traditional turning to Islam, Christianity or Buddhism where they were at least offered the illusion of being less shunned.

A greater challenge to Hindu revivalism comes in this endeavour from Christian missionaries whose successful social work among India’s sizeable tribespeople the Hindu right-wing envies.

The brutal murder of an Australian missionary and his two sons, who were burnt in their jeep by a mob of Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists in the forests of Orissa in 1998, is a case in point.

Murderous anti-Christian violence in the Kandhamal district of Orissa subsequently bears witness to this jostling for inflating numbers, part of India’s tryst with adult franchise.

Neema’s story, of course, offers only part of the explanation for communal clashes in India.

From Shakespeare to Waris Shah, the syndrome describing communal rivalries as a deterrent to love is all too familiar. That it has been cleverly harnessed to the potent mix of Hindu revivalism is something of a paradox in a society that officially flaunts its trajectory as modern and inclusive.

All communal violence need not be necessarily linked to the social mixing of Hindu and Muslim boys and girls. Similar transgressions can and do occur across caste divides and are punished mercilessly by the village panchayat that is not averse to lynching the guilty as a widely accepted form of retribution.

The ongoing communal violence in Muzaffarnagar is complex. The region in western Uttar Pradesh sits on a vote-rich caste arithmetic, and often taps into the communal chance it offers with a high presence of Muslims. A Dalit-Muslim communal clash there is a just as high yield as a Dalit-Jat caste clash.

In this chaos, the Neema factor can be inserted all too conveniently. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders have spoken of a conspiracy to “expand Muslim population, using Hindu girls as machines”.

It may seem outlandish but it seems to work well for the rumour-mills that drive riots. ‘Love Jihad’ is the new technique, says Chandra Mohan Sharma, the bespectacled joint general-secretary of the Meerut division of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an adjunct of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The so-called Love Jihad is a “difficult art”, picked up only after “madressah-conducted training”, Sharma told The Hindu in comments published on Wednesday.

“First, good-looking Muslim men are identified. They are given neutral names like Sonu and Raju.” These boys, Mr. Sharma told the paper, are then given jeans, T-shirts, mobiles, and bikes and taught to behave.

“They stand in front of schools and colleges and woo young Hindu girls. The first few times, our girls snub them.” But then, he says resignedly, they fall for it. “This jihad is about pyar se phasana — entrapment through love.”

Mr Sharma cites alleged police records. “Out of 100 girls who elope, 95 are Hindus who go with Muslim men. It is rare that Hindu boys get Muslim girls.”

This, the Hindutva leader says conclusively, is proof of a conspiracy to “expand the Muslim population, using Hindu girls as machines. We need to protect the honour of our daughters, bahu aur beti”.

The Hindu report cautioned against taking Mr Sharma lightly. He was at the mahapanchayat on Saturday. The protection of ‘our women’ was the common theme in many speeches, as video recordings of the event, shown to The Hindu, revealed. “There is now recognition that this event added to the agitational mood, added to the insecurity, and eventually led to clashes and violence,” the report says.

“On Aug 27, a Muslim boy teased a Hindu girl,” Mr Sharma claimed, “and that is the root of the tensions. Tell me, which brother can accept this?”

While this may now be a prevalent version of the trigger for the Muzaffarnagar violence, it is all too clear that ordinary lovers will continue to be ensnared in India’s vicious trap of caste and religious prejudices. Neema must find a way out.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (38) Closed

Prakash Sep 12, 2013 08:15am

Author story of Love Jihad of Muslim boy enticing hindu girls look familiar -as recently many Muslim boys of Pakistani origin were charged and punished in Britain for sexually exploiting teenage british girls,- there was big uproar in british media.

Satya Sep 12, 2013 08:42am

While the author may proclaim he is for inter-community marriages and would like to bash up groups who are against it, can he himself go against quran which explicitly disallows marriage between muslims and non-muslims unless the non-muslim partner converts? Or is his tirade selective only?

Sanjeev Sep 12, 2013 10:27am

Why has the author not spoken a word about violent reaction of Muslim community whenever Muslim girls marry Hindu boys?

anil Sep 12, 2013 10:28am

Now I can understand how religious conversion took place in India through out history . It's obvious that Hindu men don't like to marry Muslim women , thanks to conservative and mostly uneducated society of muslims . But muslims target non-muslim girls as a soft target and it fulfills their two purposes . Such things also happen in all Islamic countries . It's not only a conspiracy , but preplanned methods to convert the whole region.

harsh Sep 12, 2013 12:14pm

nothing wrong in marrying person with another relgion but i would wonder if writer also support muslim girl marrying hindu boy ,,,

ss Sep 12, 2013 12:42pm

Thank you Jinnah sb for Pakistan :)

Ankit Sep 12, 2013 12:53pm

I was waiting for Thursday for your column - Mr. Naqvi. Since the riots started due to a muslim stalking a hindu girl you had to come up with this. "Love Jihad" is a reality. Please go to any school or college and please ask the names of boys loitering around, gawking and passing lewd comments at the girls. A majority of them would be muslims. Even in Gujarat. About Gujarat, I am sure you have never cared to visit this place after 2002 otherwise you wouldn't make this statement. Even in Ahmedabad out of the marriages registered under Special marriage Act, 90% of the cases are muslim boys marrying hindu girls. You get this information under RTI if you really care to know the truth. You yourself had written an article in dawn where you had expressed anguish at your muslim friends for their hindu wives convert to Islam before marriage.

rich Sep 12, 2013 01:02pm

go to pakistn mr naqwi.

and stop speaking for christian, we are better in india then in pakistn, the man who killed the missionary is arrested, unlike in pakistn where they go scot free

his wife was honoured by the govt,

V. C. Bhutani Sep 12, 2013 01:34pm

Janab Jawed Naqvi Saheb, jalti mein tel dalna koi aap se sikhe.

Suraj Shetty Sep 12, 2013 02:00pm

I find this article biased. Naqvisaab are you telling that Muslims welcome inter religious marriage and Hindus don't ? How many Muslim families allow their daughter to marry Hindu boys ? So the issue seem to be on both sides. What is important to note that Indian secular laws allows such couples to marry without parental permission.

Naqvi saab, Do discuss India's issue in Dawn but please but do so in a neutral fashion.

Romi Sep 12, 2013 03:42pm

We South Asians live in the Stone Age.

NotNeeded Sep 12, 2013 04:50pm

Please..... get over with your "victimization-of-muslims-in-india" theme.. she would've declared an outcast even if she were to marry a higher caste Hindu... Belonging to the same religion doesn't matter here, aap religion ki baat kar rahe hain... And i'm saying this when i myself belong to the scheduled castes here in India. Stop misleading people from our neighbouring country.

Utkarsh Singh Sep 12, 2013 04:54pm

You're one of those rare writers who manage to write about complex, diverse issues in one article without any sense of coherence at all. Kudos.

Freedom Sep 12, 2013 06:15pm

India's much vaunted progress is a sham if minor incidents involving members of Muslim and other minority communities are so easily blown up to become major riots sowing fear and displacing large numbers of them from places where they have lived for centuries. Clearly the Hindutva fascists are hell bent on repeating the Gujrat experiment in other part of India! It is time for right thinking members of the Hindu community to stop this cancer growing amongst them, but I think this will be forlorn hope.

naghman qureshi Sep 12, 2013 06:33pm

good article and an eye opener for some.thank god for pakistan.

naghman qureshi Sep 12, 2013 06:36pm

good article and an eye opener for some.thank god for pakistan.

IndianInUS Sep 12, 2013 06:40pm

Too boring and not funny.. Was hoping you would write about something more outlandish and insane.

humanity_crying Sep 12, 2013 07:57pm

Rather than writing a whole article you should have just written that you are a muslim and u hate hindus, there was no need of this much jibber jabber. Ur article is biased. I am a muslim girl and I want to marry a hindu guy. Do you think my family or my society will approve it. No they will not and credit goes to people like you who only wants to see one side of coin.

surinder kade Sep 12, 2013 08:41pm

Why Islam does not allow muslim girlas/boys to convert so they can mary hindu.

surinder kade

Ahmer Sep 12, 2013 08:56pm

Good article. The author should have given some examples where Muslim girls fell in love with Hindu boys and ran away, which I believe is an equally common practice in modern India.

Anand Sep 12, 2013 09:40pm

@Satya: Very pertinent question. I may be wrong, but in my understanding treatment of inter-faith marriage in Islam is one way traffic. Whether it is the boy, or the girl, if non-muslim conversion is must.

raj Sep 12, 2013 09:59pm

a muslim man can marry a woman from any religion, but a muslim woman can marry only a muslim man. the religion of the offspring is determined by the religion of the father. this way they can propagate faster.

vijay kumar Sep 12, 2013 10:18pm

A rather one sided article. Today all channels and the media are talking about the appeasement done by Mulayam SIngh Yadav and Azam Khan to Muslims leading to alienation of others being the cause.

Naqvi has cooked up his own fiction without taking about the inflammatory speeches given by Kadir Rana of the SP asking the Muslims to retaliate.

mimi Sep 12, 2013 10:33pm

@Satya: Don't you know Muslim boys only have the authority to marry non-Muslim girls after conversion . Recently a mere Bollywood movie was banned in Pakistan at national level because in that case girl was a Muslim and the boy wasn't . If a country and community of billions have such kind of thoughts , then leave alone this mere writer. This is the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim , more precisely non-Islamic religion and Islam .

sundeep Sep 12, 2013 10:37pm

@Prakash: Author himself is communal.I dont know what would have been his reaction if muslim girl had tried to marry Hindu boy instead. Double standard at its best

Shiva Sep 12, 2013 10:51pm

When my cousin (a brahmin) married a muslim boy, both families (they were family friends) had concerns...and advised the kids against it. But the marriage took place and both families are supportive. According to this author, objections from our side is "treating muslims as untouchables"... how would he characterize the objections from the muslim family ?

Also, when X and Y have a fight, it is between X and Y only. But the media would love to ignore the individuals and report it as a Hindu-musim fight, Jat-Dalit fight... I am not saying caste and religious prejudices do not exist. But there are many shades and the media exaggerates big time. I do many things every day, right and wrong. 99% of my actions should be attributable to ME, the individual... No sir, for the media.. "I" the individual does NOT matter.. I am a Hindu, Brahmin, etc.

SBB Sep 12, 2013 10:57pm

Same story with Mr. Naqvi - Hindus bad, Muslims good. Nothing changes...

shashi Sep 12, 2013 11:12pm

Pathetic column This article seems to suggest that Hindus are the root cause of all evils and Muslims are just the peace loving people who can hardly do anything wrong. Ah The Peaceful Muslim world The author highlight a christian murder in 1998 to suggest a trend. He may very well argue 10th century invasion to make a point. He will never tell you how christian missionaries use money to convert poor hindus One thing u should know hindus are tolerant that's why we are still living in a secular country or if we had behaved like muslims we would have ended like Pakistan. A country where even Muslims are not safe anymore.

Rashid A Sep 13, 2013 12:13am

Dear Mr.Naqvi,

Love Jihad is not a myth. In 2012, the Home Ministry in the Indian state of Kerala submitted a report to the state government that says that since 2006, 2687 ladies got converted to Islam, out of which 2195 are Hindus and 492 are Christians. The report mentions that 79 ladies converted to Christianity and 8 ladies converted to Hinduism from 2009-12.

This information throws light of two important facts. One, most of the muslims are unable to get out of rigidity of their religious settings and are struck with medieval mindsets often exhibiting perceived victimization or paranoia. Two, the muslim women are most suppressed lot among females in India....totally brainwashed with religious and traditional humbug. Only open minded and secular education can liberate our people.

Drew Sep 13, 2013 04:02am

This is the first time author managed to reveal in a twisted manner (VHP related) how Muslim Boys are trying to woo Hindu girls. This disgusting method should be a cause for concern.

Partap Sep 13, 2013 10:30am

It takes guts to speak the truth.....speaking just to appease the muslims of a muslim majority state comes naturally to majority of South Asian journalists. Naqvi ji ,also tell the people how muslims treat their daughter if she dare wish marry a hindu boy and what happens if that boy belongs to so-called lower castes...... and how even sef-proclaimed higher caste muslims react when their daughters declare to marry a so-called lower caste muslim boy. Do sayyids or pathans allow marry their daughters to muslim dhobi, julaha or mochi ......

Robert Kharsiang Sep 13, 2013 10:54am

Mr Naqvi, as is his wont, has come out of his yet another brilliant (by his standards) piece on how to somehow pummel India. He is one of those rare journalists that are capable of distorting any event to serve his ends. And the only end that he can think of is how to condemn the very country he lives in. He brings Christians in his tirade pretending to be concerned about them. I would only pray to this gentleman to leave us alone. Let him remain dedicated to the service of the country he loves most. It is another matter he can not even dream of living in his paradise being a Shia.

Ejaz Sep 13, 2013 11:59am

Rather have such marriages banned by law than allow them to become kerosene in an already fragile communal atmosphere preserving in the country (especially in the north and west).

Most of us Indians are communal to some or the other extent (not 50 but we have like 50 million shades of gray here). If such instances can and used by right wing forces on either side of the communal and caste divide, ban it by law. No need of pretentiousness. We all know that "All men (groups of) are created equal but some men (groups of) are more equal than others". Hence our government must be pragmatic and ban things (even if it seems a bit unconstitutional) in order to have peace in such a fractured scenario. I'd take that any day over pretentious equality that never gets translated into implementation.

As an engineer, I am more inclined towards pragmatism rather than idealism and I know, given the complex mix of caste, community and doctored history, it is difficult for India to have business as usual.

javed Sep 13, 2013 01:00pm

@ss: some people fall in a pit, but are happy to stay there as they are too lazy to get out.. enjoy

jagdish Sep 13, 2013 01:05pm

@naghman qureshi: Does Pakistan allow muslim girls to marry Non Muslims and convert? If no, then please dont be judgemental and reflect

raj Sep 13, 2013 01:40pm

@Ankit: I am totally agree with you Ankit, muslims must allow their girls and daughters to marry non muslims in the same manner, they merry with hindu girls, no double standard.......i do not mind to merry muslim girl.......:)

Challanger Sep 13, 2013 03:50pm

LOL!!!! At most of the Comments.. People criticizing writer without proper logic...

Manish Sep 13, 2013 10:56pm

Yaar I dont know why do muslims have problem with everything in this world which is non muslim or done by non muslim...... i dont know what these muslim want.....