'Love Jihad' in the time of elections, fear mongering on the rise in Karnataka

The paranoia surrounding people from different communities entering into relationships led to a Hindu seer announcing that he is making preparations to form a Hindu task force.
'Love Jihad' in the time of elections, fear mongering on the rise in Karnataka
'Love Jihad' in the time of elections, fear mongering on the rise in Karnataka
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The last month has seen right wing groups and conservative parents raise the ‘Love Jihad’ bogey multiple times in Dakshina Kannada. And the victims of this nightmare in the district are four relationships between Hindu women and Muslim men.

The Bajrang Dal, which has taken up two cases has submitted a complaint to defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the increase in the number of cases of ‘alleged love jihad’.

The latest incident to be made public is that of the daughter of the leader of a pro-Hindu group, who was brought back from Mumbai to Mangaluru six months after she married a Muslim man.

Anusha* (name changed) met Mohammed Iqbal Choudhary (28) through Facebook a few years years ago and later fled with him to Mumbai six months ago where she married him.

However, she was brought back to Mangaluru in July amid confusion. While Mohammed alleges that she was kidnapped by family members, an affidavit produced in the Mangaluru police station states that she is happy with her family and returned on her own will.

Cases pile up

The case of Anusha is the latest in a series of similar cases where relationships between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man have been questioned in the past month.

In December, sustained pressure from a right-wing group forced a 18-year old Hindu woman to break off her relationship with a Muslim man in Mangaluru.

Members of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, ‘counselled’ the woman, alleging that her boyfriend was a drug peddler.

When photographs of the inter-faith relationship circulated on social media, members of Durga Vahini sought to meet the woman in order to convince her against pursing a relationship with the Muslim man.

In another incident, Priyanka, a resident of Daregudde near Moodabidri was investigated by police after she went missing on December 9. Pro-Hindu groups claimed it was a case of ‘love jihad’ and BJP leaders too jumped in.

Priyanka was tracked down by Moodabidri police and arrested for stealing gold ornaments and offering intoxicating drinks to family members. She was later released on bail and now resides with her family in Daregudde. The woman had wanted to escape her family, and eloped with a Muslim man.

In neighbouring Shivamogga district, the parents of a Hindu girl filed a police complaint stating that their daughter who married a Muslim man was ‘missing’. The complaint said that Anusha Hegde married Javed Khan in spite of opposition from her parents after meeting him while pursuing engineering studies at a college in Mysuru.

Hindu seer promises task force to check ‘Love Jihad’

The paranoia surrounding people from different communities entering into relationships led to pro-Hindu groups announcing an awareness programme about 'love jihad' starting on Wednesday.

A Hindu seer has also announced that he is making preparations to form a Hindu task force to prevent cases of 'love jihad' from happening.

Rajashekarananda Swami of Vajradehi Mutt in Gurupur promised that the task force, which will include 30 women, would be functional soon in Dakshina Kannada and would involve doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and advocates.

The seer’s statements may have a political motive as there are reports that the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is keen to field him in the upcoming state assembly elections.

Bajrang Dal requests NIA enquiry

Meanwhile, the complaint submitted by Bajrang Dal urged the National Investigative Agency to enquire into the matter of increased number of ‘love jihad’ cases. “Since several years in Karnataka and Kerala, several girls/ladies are missing and we came to know that most of them left home with Muslim boys and later converted to Islam. Some girls were returned after suffering of torture from the family with whom they went and disclosed the terror connection to such boys,” reads the letter submitted to defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

‘Women under pressure to comply to societal norms’

Social activist Vidya Dinker said that women in Dakshina Kannada are under severe pressure to comply with their family’s wishes because they are primed for it all their lives. “Girls are primed for this kind of policing all our lives. For instance, girls are not allowed to step out of home alone after dark. This is why women buckle under pressure at that critical moment when they should decide who they live with. If somebody falls in love with a person from another community, she should allowed to take her own decision, whether to live with the person or return to her parents,” said Dinker.

She also pointed out that while the top-ranking police officials were aware of the issue and its implications, the same could not be said about the constables and inspectors who handle cases on a daily basis.

“The top rung in the police know clearly what the constitution says and what a person’s individual rights are but the lowest level officers are not aware,” she added.

An aspiring actor called out police officials for harassing her and her friend, a Muslim youth, at Subramanya police station in the district on Monday. In response, the Dakshina Kannada Superintendent of Police has conducted an inquiry into the matter and initiated action against the policemen guilty of harassing the actor and her friend.

The increase in the number of such cases also comes just months before Karnataka is set to go to polls with the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.

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