Investigation uncovers coercive tactics Hindutva groups use to battle 'love jihad'

Published October 8, 2015
"We exert on her emotionally that her mother will die, her father will die, and brother might even commit suicide as he would not be able to face society," Sangeet Som, BJP MLA from Sardhana in Meerut district, is quoted as saying. — Photo courtesy: Scroll.in
"We exert on her emotionally that her mother will die, her father will die, and brother might even commit suicide as he would not be able to face society," Sangeet Som, BJP MLA from Sardhana in Meerut district, is quoted as saying. — Photo courtesy: Scroll.in

“Look, there is some truth in these cases of love jihad around here… There is someone or some organisation behind it. For instance, in the beginning, boys would roam around on motorcycles in front of schools or colleges or plus-two schools wearing a kalawa (a red thread around the wrist), using names like Sonu, Monu, pretending to be Hindus. A girl falls in this trap.”

That is what Sanjeev Balyan, Bharatiya Janata Party leader (BJP), Lok Sabha member from Muzaffarnagar and a riot accused, has to say about "love jihad" — the alleged campaign by Muslim men to woo Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

Balyan also speaks of maulvis ordering Muslims to produce many children so that they can dominate India again. In the same conversation, he admits to gathering Dalit, Jat and Thakur mobs in Kawal, one of the villages Muzaffarnagar that saw widespread rioting and Muslim deaths in 2013.

Balyan is one of the many leaders from the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindutva organisations who were recorded on video camera speaking about the organised use of coercion, violence, blackmail and false cases to split up Hindu-Muslim couples.

The interviews were part of "Operation Juliet: Busting the Bogey of Love Jihad", a year-long undercover investigation done by Cobrapost and Gulail, which was shared with other media outlets on Monday.

Shazia Nigar, a journalist with Gulail, met the interviewees pretending to be an MPhil student from Jawaharlal Nehru University associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

She traced the “love jihad” phenomenon from Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka to Kerala, where the phrase first passed into public consciousness. Here, interviewees admitted that leaders from both the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) supported the organisations that fought against so-called love jihad.

To the rescue

Everywhere it was the same story, the investigation claimed. First, the girl is forcefully separated from her partner in an action that right-wing groups claim is actually a rescue operation.

Omkar Singh, an RSS leader from Muzaffarnagar, told Nigar that he has saved 125 girls "from the clutches of Muslims" and remarried them to Hindu men.

Usually, a rape and kidnapping case is filed against the Muslim youth with whom she has eloped. The Operation Juliet video records Suresh Rana, the BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan in Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh, saying he fabricated rape charges against three Muslim boys who had gone out with a Hindu girl one evening.

As a second stage, the girl is emotionally blackmailed into giving a statement against her partner in court.

"We exert on her emotionally that her mother will die, her father will die, and brother might even commit suicide as he would not be able to face society," Sangeet Som, BJP MLA from Sardhana in Meerut district, is quoted as saying.

If she doesn’t agree, the investigation suggests, there is violence. Sanjay Agarwal, who ran for municipal elections on a BJP ticket in Muzaffarnagar in 2014, admits to beating up both boys and girls to obtain false testimonies in court.

Hindu Helpline, an organisation in Kerala, has other methods. Dr Cijith, who works with the organisation in Ernakulam, told Nigar that the girl may be given drugs to induce temporary amnesia and subdue her if she is "being too aggressive."

She is then sent to a counselling center, where religious experts try to talk her out of Islam. If she still does not agree, she is sent to a hospital, kept in a cell and given "medication."

Ravish Tantri, chief of the Hindu Unity Forum in Kerala, told Nigar, "When the girl goes from the conversion centre to the court, we warn her that if she does not give a statement on her parents’ side and does not marry the guy prescribed by us then the moment she and her husband step out of the court, they will be killed by our people."

With a little help from the law

More than one interviewee claimed to have the support of the police and the legal apparatus. Captain Ganesh Kartik, a BJP legislator from Mangalore, told Nigar that RSS workers have penetrated the police force. “When I talk to students I tell them to join the police," he said.

"So when we need help there are a lot of karyakartas. Sixty per cent of the young constables are our students.”

In Muzaffarnagar, Sanjay Aggarwal told Nigar, "A lot of advocates are swayamsevaks. They keep an eye to see if a Hindu girl registers at the city magistrate or SDM’s office and the date given. They find out who her lawyer is and if she’s in the lawyer’s chamber. We go there with our whole team… 50, 60, 70 people."

Lalit Maheshwari, district president of the VHP in Muzaffarnagar, said that his organisation runs a lawyers’ association which provides legal aid to alleged victims of so-called love jihad.

Two cases of ‘love jihad’

The investigation followed two cases of so-called love jihad. In both cases, women who had filed charges of rape later changed their statements.

Kajal (name changed) lodged a complaint at Meerut’s Meerapur station in September 2014, saying she had been raped by Dr Abdul Kalam, owner of the private hospital where she worked and was then forced to marry him. Abdul Kalam was arrested.

Months later, she told a Cobrapost correspondent that she had married Kalam of her own accord and had made the previous statement under pressure from various parties.

A local policeman said the statement had been made in the presence of BJP and RSS members, and that family members who had once spread rumours now retracted their claims that Kajal had been entrapped by so-called love jihad.

Then there was Neha (name changed) from Sarawa village in Meerut, who had filed charges of gang rape against nine men In August 2014, including a Muslim youth called Kalim and the village pradhan.

Later, she admitted to a relationship with Kalim, and said her father, who had threatened to kill her, forced her to press charges in order to extract money from the men. When Cobrapost spoke to Neha’s father, he blamed the Hindu Jagran Manch, the Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal for the episode.

A Cobrapost correspondent visited one of the accused, Sanaullah, who had been arrested on Neha’s complaint.

Though Sanaullah had got bail after eight months, his wife was still in jail. He asked why, if the girl had changed her statement, the case had not been dropped.

Love and terror

The investigation also revealed how the campaign against so-called love jihad segued into other forms of violence. In Muzaffarnagar, Nigar interviewed Shiv Kumar Sharma, who had founded the Krishna Sena in the late 1990s.

Sharma called himself a "Hindu terrorist" and described killing Muslims:

"I’ve been like that since my childhood. I have had cases pending against me for a long time. In 1996-'97, when we used to kill Muslims, we used to roam around at nights, hunting them down. At times when we could not kill one, we used to feel life is worthless, as if nothing had happened.. if we killed a Muslim, we used to celebrate the occasion, and if we killed a maulvi, then our happiness would known no bounds… I always had this dream that the police would arrest me and throw me in jail."

This article was originally published on Scroll.in and has been reproduced with permission.

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