News Courtesy COBRAPOST
By Shazia Nigar and Shishupal Kumar and Bureau
A Cobrapost and Gulail investigation reveals how the RSS–VHP–BJP combine and their splinter groups use violence, intimidation, emotional blackmail, duplicity and drugs to split up Hindu–Muslim married couples. These organisations claim Muslim men entice and marry Hindu girls in the name of “love jihad”. The groups target not only Hindu girls and women who marry outside their religion, as it is commonly believed, but also their Muslim or Christian partners. The investigation reveals that there is a systematic effort towards using love jihad to polarise communities along communal lines.
New Delhi: A long investigation jointly conducted by Cobrapost and Gulail into the so-called phenomenon of “love jihad” reveals that the RSS–VHP–BJP combine and their sister outfits use violence, intimidation, fraudulent means, emotional blackmail and drugs to rescue Hindu girls from their Muslim husbands who allegedly trick them into marriage. The campaign against this “love jihad” is part of the larger game plan of the Sangh Brotherhood to spread the venom of hatred against the Muslim community by creating a perceived threat for the majority Hindus. Complicit in this campaign are a permissive police force and administration.
In the course of this investigation, the Cobrapost and Gulail team met leaders and workers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) such as BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Kumar Balyan; BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan in Uttar Pradesh Suresh Rana; BJP MP from Kairana in UP Hukum Singh; BJP MLA from Sardhana Sangeet Som; BJP’s district level leader in Muzaffarnagar Sanjay Agarwal; Umesh Malik, who contested the Assembly election from Budhana on a BJP ticket and lost; RSS leader Omkar Singh in Muzaffarnagar; Lalit Maheshwari, VHP’s Muzaffarnagar unit head. Down south in Karnataka and Kerala, the team met Shrikar Prabhu, Karnataka BJP’s executive member who has since been expelled from the party; BJP MLC from Mangalore Captain Ganesh Karnik; Advocate Jagdish Shenava, VHP’s Mangalore district president; VHP worker Hari Shiv Prasad; Shiv Kumar Sharma, the founder of Krishna Sena, a religious organization; and the chief of Hindu Unity Fourm Ravish Tantri.
The interviews that the team had with this Hindutva brigade bring forth the following truths about “love jihad”:
They forcibly rescue girls who are victims of “love jihad.”
They misuse public support for mounting pressure on police and local administration to nullify such marriages.
They file fake rape and kidnapping cases against Muslim youth who elope with or marry Hindu women.
They use fake documents showing girls as minor so as to implicate the Muslim boys.
If a Hindu woman is not willing to give a statement against her Muslim lover or husband or is not willing to forsake him, they use emotional blackmail and physical force to make her fall in line.
They even administer medicinal drugs on “love jihad” victims to induce temporary amnesia to rescue them from inter-religious marriages.
Interestingly, not a single woman, they claimed to have rescued, ever sought their help saying she was a victim of “love jihad.”
They distribute inflammatory pamphlets and books to further their cause.
They run counselling centres and Hindu helplines to brainwash Hindu women who marry outside their community into giving up on their love life and settle for the man chosen by the Hindutva Brigade.
These counselling sessions consist of a poor depiction of the man she is in love and denigration of his religion, call to her family and community honour, instilling a sense of insecurity in the woman with regard to her future and use of threat of physical harm to both her and her lover.
Apart from claiming to have employed such dirty tricks to rescue the so-called victims of “love jihad”, the Hindu brigade interviewed claimed “love jihad” was responsible for Muzaffarnagar riots that took place a couple of months before Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Two of leaders Sanjeev Baliyan and Umesh Malik confessed to their roles in these riots. Among these fanatics, we have Shiv Kumar, the founder of Krishna Sena, who claims to have been a Hindu terrorist whose job was to kill people from minority communities.
The target of this campaign of restoring women to Hindu fold are not only Muslim or Christian men, as is the common belief, but also the women themselves who have married or are in a relationship outside of their religion.
As the Gulail investigation reveals, there is a systematic effort towards using the phenomenon of “love jihad” to polarise communities along communal lines. “Love jihad” is a potent mix of patriarchy and communalism which not only curbs the freedom of choice of the Hindu girl but also paints the Muslim community as an enemy in one stroke. Young lovers are denied freedom to choose their partners and are punished if they dare to do so. Stray incidents of inter-religious couples eloping are portrayed as a conspiracy devised by the Muslim community to trap Hindu women and increase their population. This leads to a sense of insecurity, and Muslims are perceived as a threat, leading to communal tensions.
Our team visited Muzaffarnagar and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Mangalore in Karnataka, and Kasaragod and Ernakulum in Kerala, apart from Delhi, to find the true story behind “love jihad”. Infiltrating the ranks of these groups, we discovered a sinister twist to “love jihad”: it was carried out with sanctions from the very top, from the BJP, VHP and RSS. Gulail have on camera BJP MLAs and heads of the right-wing groups admitting to their role in violent and illegal activities related to “love jihad” and how they manipulated, intimidated, used force and blackmail with Hindu girls who had eloped and married Muslim boys. The communal and patriarchal base of “love jihad” means that the immediate victims are not only Muslim men but also Hindu women.
These right wing groups show no remorse and even boast about how they slapped fabricated cases of rape and kidnapping on innocent Muslim men and how they forced “uncooperating” Hindu women – who married Muslim men – to toe their line and give false testimonies against their husbands. Apart from exposing the communal mind set of those involved, their own admission is evidence of how they have broken the law at several levels, including the use of medicinal drugs on Hindu women to induce temporary amnesia.
Pretending to be an M Phil student from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi who has worked with right wing student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and is sympathetic to their agenda of Hindutva, our correspondent Shazia Nigar explored the underbelly of “love jihad” in Muzaffarnagar, Karnataka and Kerala. This is what she found.
Across Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, the narrative around what the BJP, RSS and VHP define as “love jihad” is eerily similar. Umesh Malik, who contested MLA elections from Budhana on a BJP ticket and lost, addressed a panchayat in Phugana village in Muzaffarnagar on January 29, 2014. Referring to rape cases the police were slapping the rioters with in aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riots, Umesh Malik tells the panchayat, “Behla ke, phusla ke, jhoot bol ke, kisi bhi tareeke se jail bhej dein. Ye prashasan kar raha hai. Iske upar vichaar karna padega. 100 ke 100 per cent jhoote hain (The government is trying to send people to jail by cajoling them, by lying, by using all means. We have to think over this. It is a 100 per cent lie).”
Preparing the grounds for the Sarv panchayat, Umesh Malik continues to stoke people’s passions by portraying these rape cases as a matter of family honour for the accused. Exhorting the gathering, he says, “Saathiyon, buzurgon aur naujawano, agar is balatkaar ke mamle main hum jail jaate hain toh humare pure pariwaar ka samaan ghat jayega aur sau barson tak bhulaya nahin ja sakta (Friends, elders and the youth, if in these rape cases we go to jail then our families’ honour will dwindle and will not be forgotten for a hundred years to come).” Depicting the issue as a question of honour for the Hindu community is bound to create hurdles for effective delivery of justice and thus is a subversion of the criminal justice system.
Umesh Malik adds, “Kahin agar humari matao aur beheno ki samman ki baat aati hai, humari bahu betiyon ki samman ki baat aati hai, toh main iss khadi panchayat main kehta hun ki kahin na kahin mar bhi sakte hain aur maar bhi sakte hain (If our mothers and sisters’ honour is at stake, our daughters-in-law and our daughters’s honour is at stake, then I say in this panchayat that if we can die we can kill also).”
In his conversation with Shazia, Malik brands the famous Islamic school of Deoband something as training Muslim boys for “love jihad.” He says: “Those people (Muslims) have eight children, ten children and they send one or two of them to Deoband. There the handsome ones are selected and trained to trap Hindu girls. They are told if they do this Allah will be pleased with them. Their religion says this. They do this work of trapping our girls and making them elope. In the last four months, 27 girls have eloped.”
Umesh Malik, however, denies that the BJP is involved in combating “love jihad” and he blames the VHP. “BJP mein iss prakaar ki koi niti nahi hai, BJP ka movement ham log hai, panchayat hai, ye BJP ke logon ne ki thi. Baki jo pamphlets vagairah baantne, patther marne iss prakar ki ghatnaye VHP vagairah ne ki (BJP doesn’t do any such kind of work. The BJP’s movement mainly includes conducting panchayats. Distributing pamphlets and pelting stones is done by the VHP).”
He adds, “Jo patrak wagairah baante pamphlets wagairah baantey hai logon ko Hindutva kay liye aggressive karna yeh thoda darasal Sangh ka aur VHP ka kaam hai… mai toh kahin na kahin Hinduwadi hu na RSS aur VHP aur Bajrang Dal aur Swadeshi Jagran Manch inhi ka nikla hua karyakarta hu mai to karunga. Normally BJP ke political log aisa nahi karte hain (Jobs like distributing pamphlets to make people aggressive for Hindutva … such things are done by groups like VHP and RSS… I am a Hinduwadi and have been associated with RSS and VHP or Bajrang Dal or Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Normally, BJP politicians do not indulge in such things).”
Like some of his band of brothers, Malik did not go into a denial mode when Shazia, after revealing her true identity, sought his comment on what he had claimed in this interview. Instead, he said: “Nahi story jaa rahi hai badi achi baat hai jaani chahiye. Ye message samaj ke beech mein jana chahiye ki kaun asli doshi hai (It is good to know that story is going to be release. It should be published. The society should know who the real culprits are).”
Hukum Singh, BJP MP from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh echoes what Umesh Malik has said. Accusing as much Muslim youth of enticing Hindu girls as he rues the freedom that Hindus give their daughters while Muslims are becoming far more conservative, Hukum Singh offering moral policing as a solution to the menace of “love jihad.” He says, “If a father, as a Hindu, wants his children not to be influenced by such a culture, he needs to be alert. RSS is talking about this, BJP is talking about this. BJP is doing it through politics and RSS is doing it through social awakening.” Hukum Singh was named in the FIR filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police for allegedly inciting the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli last year.
He also has a counter-strategy to nail the culprits. “Nahi, counter karne ki strategy toh maine bataya … by through proper channel law ka dawara hona chahiye (I have a counter strategy… through proper channel of law).” Hukum Singh explains how it all works. “Law mein hum yeh fail ho rahe hain toh ladki bayaan de di thane mein ja ke main iske sath mein rahungi… ab strategy ismein kya hogi… strategy toh yahi hogi BJP ki government ayegi phir psychological atmoshphare banega aur jab psychological atmoshphare banega toh koi Muslim dare nahi karega iski ye jo main kah rha hu ye toh strategy hai let Modi come and no Mohhamedan will dare sahas bhi nahi kare kisi Hindu ladki ki taraf dekhne ka aur hath lagane ki (We are failing before law as the girl gives statement in the police station that that she would to stay with the boy… what strategy are we possibly going to use in this? The strategy is to catapult the BJP to form the government, which will change the psychological atmosphere. So, in that changed atmosphere, no Muslim will dare. The strategy is: let Modi come to power, then no Mohmmedan will dare look at any of Hindu girls let alone touching them).” In case it comes to that point, they will do everything to counter the “love jihad”: “Sab kuch jam kar dengey, sadkey jam kar dengey, unka rahna mushkil kar denge, Assembly mey sawaal utha dengey, saari jitni bhi hamarey paas option available hai karenge sab kuch (We will block out everything, we will block roads, we will make life difficult for them, we will raise questions in the Assembly and do whatever is possible for us and whatever options are available).”
BJP Lok Sabha member from Muzaffarnagar Sanjeev Balyan says, “Every village has a maulvi. They have an organised system. Maulvis sit in masjids and decisions are passed onto them from above. The maulvi conveys this to the people and they listen to him. They don’t use their brains, they don’t think. The maulvi asks them to produce children, so they do. The maulvi says that Muslims have ruled over this land for 700–800 years and they will again. They talk about such things. They do not understand. There is such a dangerous conspiracy to expand this operation.”
When our correspondent asks him about “love jihad” in Muzaffarnagar, Balyan says, “Dekho hua kya yeh love jihad wala maamla, vakai ismein bahut kuch na kuch sachchai hai dekho detail ye toh nahin kah sakta main bilul ki main ye bata doon aapko lekin jis tarah se organizsed system chala uske peeche koi na koi cheez hai ya to koi sanstha hai ya kahin na kahin se log isko wo kar rahe hain kyonki jis tarah se ek mahaul banaya gaya naam badhaane ke liye shuruaati taur pe school ya college plus two tak ke school ke saamne ladke motor cycle pe ghoomte hain yeh pahne rahte hain kalawa, kalawa pahnana ek Hindu pehchan hai ye ak badi baat hui aur Hindu naam rakhe gaye Sonu, Monu jab ladki puri trah se usmein aa gai phir usko pata laga jab wo chali gai ki nahi main toh ek Hindu ke saath nahi toh usse pahle uska ye aise bahut se case hue (Look, there is some truth in these cases of love jihad around here. I can’t give much details, but things are being worked out in a very organised manner. There is someone or some organisation behind it. For instance, in the beginning, boys would roam around on motorcycles in front of schools and ten plus two colleges using Hindu names like Sonu, Monu tie a kalawa, pretending to be Hindus. A girl falls in this trap. She would come to know only after eloping with the boy that she is not with a Hindu. There have been a lot of such cases).”
Our correspondent tells him that Suresh Rana said that Sanjeev Balyan worked a lot to unite different castes. “How did you do it?” In reply, Hukum Singh blames the government for the divisive caste system and says, “Actually kya hua government ki policy hai ki caste mein inko baant diya jaae, caste mein actually har caste ka ek toh leader hai, mai Jat represent karta hun, Suresh Rana ji Thakur ko represent karte hain aur Bhuwan Singh hain woh Gujjar se hain. Toh hamara basically nuqsaan sabse zyada Jaton ko hua actually aur log unke saath aae to kahin na kahin sarkaar ne koshish ki har samudayon ko khush karne ki arre ye jaat hain tum mat jaao Jaton ka jhagda hai hamari to kosish shuru se aakhir tak ye thi ki nahi ye Jat ka nhi hai… uske bad to ye ho gya na Hindu Muslim phir ye jati ka bhed usme hamne bhi yahi prayas kiya (Yes, that was the government policy of dividing society into castes, and each of those castes have their own leaders. Like I represent the Jats, Suresh Rana ji represents the Thakurs and Bhuwan Singh represents the Gujjars. Among all of them, Jats faced the maximum damage due to love jihad. Others felt it’s the problem of Jats, let’s not get involved in that. So here our target was to bring all these castes as one, as Hindus and fight together against Muslims).”
On January 29, 2014, Sanjeev Balyan addressed a panchayat meeting in village Phugana in Muzaffarnagar where he incited people to not cooperate with investigations in the rape cases related to the riots and admitted giving a communal colour to events preceding the riots.
Sanjeev Balyan, in complete disregard for the lives lost and the 40,000 displaced in the communal riots, tells the panchayat: “Bhai mai nahin manta doshi kisi ko. Jis din jisne woh kaam kara uski kisiki kisise dushmani nahin thi. Jo dus hazar log purbaliyan bheje the, jinhone moth dekhi, unhone aake kara. Main kisi ko doshi nahin manta (I don’t consider anyone guilty. The day when they did it [rape], they did not have any enmity with anyone. I don’t consider anyone guilty).”
Such mobilisation is geared towards creating an atmosphere where the police machinery cannot function. Making an overt call for non-cooperation with the government towards delivering justice, Balyan says, “Mera shujhav hai ke prashashan ke paas baar baar na jao. Baar baar jane se humari takat kamzor ho… Ispe baat cheet karo hi na. Kyunki baat cheet ke bad beech ka rasta nikle ga. Ismein beech ka rasta koi nikalna nahin hai (I suggest not going to the administration again and again. By going repeatedly to them, we become weak. Don’t even talk about it. Because after talking there will be a compromise. In this there can’t be any compromise).”
Balyan’s address also revealed the BJP’s attempt to mobilise Hindus by portraying the riots and the perceived injustice by the state government as something that concerned not just the Jats but all caste groups. In Uttar Pradesh, where Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party could garner a sizable portion of the Dalit votes, this emphasis on the Hindu identity as opposed to caste identity is an important aspect of the BJP’s electoral campaign. Reminding people that they were one in this fight against a state government that is sympathetic to Muslims, Baliyan says “Saara danga isi ilake main hua hai, usmain saari jaati ke log hain. Aisa nahin hai ke sirf Jat hi Jat hain. Harijan bhi hain, saare hain. Aur har khap ke log hain (All the riots happened in this area, people from all castes were involved in it. It’s not as though there were Jats only. There were Harijans also, all were there. There were people from all khaps).”
He also says that there was an organised effort to give a communal turn to the events in Kawal, a village in Muzaffarnagar, which led to large scale rioting and killings of Muslims. Violence that had erupted between Jats and Muslims was portrayed as tension between Hindus and Muslims. Balyan admits that Jats, Thakurs and Dalits were mobilised and brought together by him and other members of the BJP. He says that he organised the first panchayat at Kutba, which was the centre point of violence, although he claims it was in response to the panchayat called by the Muslims.
To know if the BJP MP and Central minister still sticks to his earlier statements that he had made during his interview with Shazia, when the reporter spoke to him again, he did not disown what he had said.
Radhey Shyam, a VHP worker in Muzaffarnagar, says, “Love jihad issi wajah se hi toh hai ki tum kamzor ho tum char aadmio ko goli mar do unke love jihad agle hi din band ho jayega. Jaha unka ladka hamari ladki ke sath dikhai de goli mar do… 10 ladke agar hamare kurban ho gaye usmein toh kya fark pad jayegqa, kuch fark nahi padna hai agar hamari kaum bachti hai to 10–20 ki kurbani deni chahiye aur bina kurbani ke toh kuch chij nahi milti hai (Love jihad happens because you are weak. You just need to shoot a few people and it will stop the next day. If you see their boy with our girl, just shoot them… If 10 of our boys die, how does it matter? It won’t matter if our community is saved. 10–20 sacrifices are needed, and without sacrifice nothing can be achieved).”
When our reporter spoke to him again, before the release of the story, to remind him of their conversation and what all he had claimed about love jihad and how he had advocated violence against Muslims, he denied to have said any such thing: “Nahi violence ka kahin koi jikra nahi hai violence ka koi matlab bhi nahi hai (No, I never mentioned violence and violence has no use).”
BJP MLA from Sardhana Sangeet Som doesn’t care which party is running the government for they can browbeat the police and local administration into toing their line. He says, “Ab Hindustan hai aur Hindustan mein thik hai sarkar kisi ki bhi ho loktantrik desh mein toh apni baat manwaane ke aur bhi kai tareke hote hain na ye police ko bhi pata hai kal ko dharna denge pradarshan karenge usse danga failega to police bhi in saari cheezon ko samajhti hai to isliye majboori bhi hoti hai police ki cooperate karna (This is Hindustan and it does not matter which party is running the government. In a democratic country like this, there are many other ways to get things done. The police knows it well that we will do picketing, hold demonstration and all this will lead to rioting. So, they perforce co-operate with us).”
When asked how he makes a Hindu girl who has married a Muslim man understand and return to her parents, he says, “Ladki ko ye hi samjhaya jata hai beta ye tumhaare liye theek nahin hai aur dekhiye sabse badi baat ye hai ki Muslim logon mein toh ye hai hi nahin ki ek se shaadi kar li toh ab jaise Hinduon mein ek se shaadi kar liya toh doosri shaadi karega toh wo automatic jail chala jaega ye Hindustan mein 2–2 kanoon chal rahe hain na ki Muslim toh 4 se kar le hain to usse fir ye bataya jaata hai ki ye zaroori thode hi hai mujhe bata dijiye iss Hindustan mein aap kitni ladki agar kisi ke saath shaadi ki hai aur doosri ko adjust kar legi mujhe mujhe bata dijiye agar koi case aisa aaya hai ek aadh kuch per cent dekhiye rare case hote hain aur sabse badi baat ye ki usse emotionally samjhaaaya jaega ki teri maa mar jaegi tera baap mar jaega tera bhai suicide kar lega wo samaj mein baithne layak nahin rahega (We make her see the reason that this is not good for her. We tell her that they are Muslims, they never settle for one woman, whereas a Hindu boy will be automatically sent to jail if he does so. On the other hand, a Muslim can marry upto four women and those women can adjust among themselves. You tell me which Hindu girl will adjust like that? There are, of course, some exceptions. Such cases are rare… Most importantly 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 the society).”
RSS leader Omkar Singh claims to have “saved” 125 girls from the clutches of Muslims. “Lagbhag 125 ladkiyan main Muslman ke changul se apni nikalwa chuka hu ab tak (I have rescued nearly 125 such girls from the clutches of the Muslims, till date).” He has done this with the help of police, he says, and got the girls remarried into Hindu families. He explains how they achieve this feat by slapping false cases against the Muslim boys: “Ladki jab ek bar phans jaati hai ladki phans gai Sonu Monu ke chakkar mey… iss type ke naam rakhte hai ab ladkiyon ko lagta hai tu toh phans gai teri zindagi kharab ho gai toh yahi rehne mein faayda hai… hum uss ladki ko pehle samjhate hai lekin ladki manti nahi phir ham ladke pe case lagwate hai pharji (After the girl has fallen for Sonu Monu… they [Muslim boys] use such names… the girls realize that their lives have been ruined, [they think] it is better to stay with them. Then we make them understand and if they still disagree, we file false cases against their men).”
To counter “love jihad”, the BJP, RSS and VHP conduct what they call “rescue operations”. These operations often involve forcibly separating the couple, using violence on both of them and slapping fabricated cases of kidnapping and rape on the Muslim husbands. These organisations have formed teams comprising lower level workers who keep an eye on cases of Hindu girls eloping with Muslim boys. Some of them also use right-wing leaning lawyers as informants. If an application is filed with the marriage registrar’s office under the Special Marriage Act, these lawyers tip these teams.
Sanjay Agarwal, who contested municipal elections on a BJP ticket in Muzaffarnagar in 2014, admits to have used force, violence and threats to compel girls to give false testimonies against Muslim boys, names senior RSS leaders from the town who have helped convert Muslim girls into Hindus and exposes his deep seated communal mind set when he says “We have to work towards ensuring every citizen of India is a Hindu.”
How does he spread awareness about “love jihad”? He says, “Aise samjhaya na kisi muhalle ki ladki chali gai… ladki aapko bataya aapki ladki ko Musalman le gya isliye le gaya waha pe bhi le gaya tha waha bhi le gaya tha ikattha karke sab mauhalle walo ne biradri ke log rahte hai na (We explain that their girl has been taken away by a Muslim and many such other girls have also been taken away, which automatically brings people of a colony together among whom are their own caste members).”
This is done in an organised way by holding meetings and telling people how Muslim men are enticing Hindu girls. “Sab jagah hoti hai har tarike se hoti hai aur meeting mein jagah jagah baithke hoti hain batchit hoti hai khub sari aisa hai na meeting ka madhayam ek nahi hota man liya chunav ki meeting hai jaise BJP ki meeting pe mai gaya aur mai Hinduwadi hu to mai apni baat karunga to main baat hi love jihad se shuru karunga aise aise karunga bhaiyo aaj desh ke samne jaise udaharan deta hu desh ke samne aaj sankat hai aaj Modi ji ko lana hai kyu lana aaj Hindutava ki aawashyakta hai Hindutwa ki aawashyakta kyun hai kyunki aaj Musalman hamari bachhiyo ko bhagane ka kam kar rahe hai love jihad ke naam pe jo iss kaam pe lage huey hain hamare fala gaon se fala ladki gai fala biradri ki ladki gai uss ladki ko ham nikal ke aaj loving jihad se nipatna hai Musalmano se niptna hai gaukasi ho rahi hai gayein kat rahi hain waha gay kat rahi hai matlab ak vishay nahi ham sab vishay lete hain aur ladai ladni hai to kon ladega ye ladai Modi ladege end me ghum ke phir Modi pea a gaye (We have meetings everywhere, we have discussions. The basic aim of any such meeting is not one thing. For example, there is a meeting held on elections, and I have gone on behalf of BJP, so, I start like this, saying, friends our country is in danger. We have to bring Modi ji. Why? Because we need more of Hinduism in this country. These Muslim men are snatching and stealing our girls from us, in the name of love jihad. Our such and such girl from such and such village was taken away and we have brought her back. Today, we have to fight love jihad. Cows are getting cut too! So basically there are many issues, we put forth and place Modi ji as the solution).”
Hold on! If the Hindu girls are lost to Muslims, then Muslim girls too are coming to Hindufold. Claims Sanjay Agarwal: “Aaj unki ladki humare yahan aa rahi hai, aaj hum woh kaam kar rahe hain. Lekin ab hum kehte nahin, batate nahin, bina batake chalte hain. Aaj humari ladki nahin ja rahi, aaj unki ladki aa rahi hai (Today their girls are coming to our homes, today we are doing that work. But we don’t say, don’t tell about it. We go about doing it silently. Today our girls are not going. Instead, their girls are coming to our fold).” However, he would not tell how they woe Muslim girls into marrying Hindus. Says Agarwal: “Ye nahin poocha karte. Ye sab cheezein nahin poocha karte. Ye toh tapasya hai (Don’t ask this. Don’t ask all this. This is penance).” Forbidding Shazia to not write all about how they do this and bring back Hindu girls, he says it will hurt the Hindu society.
However, Agarwal does not shy away from telling us how they bash up an unwilling Hindu girl to bring her to sense. Claims Agarwal: “If she doesn’t listen to us, we hit her. We get her beaten up. We misbehave (Poori badtameeze karte hain).” Such a girl is treated with a wooden board.
With a compliant police and judiciary, help is always at hand when it comes to legal wrangling.
Here is how all these actors play their part: “We don’t let the girl appear in court for days. We say that the girl is not listening. They [police] say it’s alright, we will see her tomorrow. If she isn’t listening even tomorrow, they say it’s alright. They help us a lot. They send her mother to her to talk. We are not allowed to do that. They help us a lot. Judges help us, so does the SSP (senior superintendent of police).” And judges help the cause by decreeing to handover the girl to her parents: “The judge gives the girl to us in his judgment. He hands her over to her parents. Once she is under her parents’ control, we can get her married in three days.”
Then there are always Swayam Sevaks (RSS members) among this legal fraternity who would keep an eye on an impending marriage at the registrar’s and will tip the Hindutva Brigade who would immediately launch a calibrated rescue operation. He claims: “A lot of advocates are swayam sevaks. They keep an eye to see if a Hindu girl registers at the city magistrate or the SDM’s office for marriage and the date given. They find out who her lawyer is and if she is in the lawyer’s chamber. Then they call us. We go there with our whole team… 50, 60, 70 people.”
Our correspondent meets Krishna Sena founder Shiv Kumar Sharma in his office in Muzaffarnagar. He is bang on target when he says how communal polarization after the riots would help Modi come to power: “Usmein ye hain Hindu usmein na dangon ki wajah se saara united hai Modi ke naam pe aur wo jo hai tyohaaar ki tarah le rahe hain vote pratishat badhega Hinduon ka iss baar (Because of riots all Hindus are united right now. They are celebrating in the name of [now Prime Minister Narendra] Modi. The percentage of Hindu votes [in favour of the BJP] would sure increase this time around).”
When our correspondent asks if the ‘Beti bachaao, bahu banao’ has anything to do with “love jihad,” Shiv Kumar Sharma instead focuses on “love jihad” only: “Nahi, yahan par Muzaffarnagar mein 10–15 saal se to kaafi chal raha hai Muslim ladke jo hain na Hindu ladkiyon ko pyaar ke naam pe bahkawein fuslaavein unse unse shaadi karte hain jo maan liya unke is prastaav ko thukraavein unke saath zabardasti karte hain badtamizi karte hain issi tarah se Kawal mein tha Kawal kaand jo hua tha na ye bhi issi wajah se hua tha (No, this has been going on here in Muzaffarnagar for around 10–15 years where these Muslim boys trap our Hindu girls in the name of love and if they accept their proposal they marry them and if they don’t, they harass them, misbehave with them. This is what had happened at Kawal. The Kawal incident took palce due this reason only).” He reveals his darker side: of a cold-blooded murderer. Claiming himself to be a Hindu terrorist, he goes on to tell how he would go about killing Muslims: “Asliyat mein hum pahle Hindu Dharm Rakshak Sena chaalate the, Hindu aatankwaadi sangthan. Musalmanon ki hatya karte the, masjidon pe bomb fenkte the matlab jo ye karte the Hinduon ke saath wo ye karte the toh waha per hum log ek parcha bhi daltae the uski zimmedaari lete the baqayda aur hamari paanch maang thi: Bharat ko Hindu raashtra banao, Ayodhya mein Ram mandir banao, Kashmir se dhaara 370 khatam karo (Actually we used to run a Hindu Dharm Sena, a Hindu terrorist group. We used to kill Muslims, throw bombs at mosques and basically did everything they do against the Hindus. We also used to place a pamphlet taking full responsibility of such acts and put forth our five demands: make India a Hindu Rashtra, build a Ram temple at Ayodhya, revoke Section 370 from Kashmir …).”
Among these five demands, one was the release of his Guru Dara Singh, who is serving sentence for burning alive Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons on January 22, 1999, at Manoharpur village in Kendujhar district in Odisha. Shiv Kumar explains the modus operandi of how they tame the police by creating a riot situation and how they rescue a girl from her Muslim lover: “Hum log hungama karte hain na tod-fod karein duniya bhar ke saamdaam dand bhed jo bhi hain vakeelon ki sahayata koshish yehi rehti hai jaise kai baar ladki baalig bhi nikli zyadatar ladki balig nikalti hai wo kehti hai main issi ke saath jaoongi ladke ke main toh isse pyaar karti hun maine toh isase shaadi kar li ye kar li to usko nabalig ghoshit karne ke liye kuch na kuch point jo hai hum log nikaalte hain kuch na kuch uske kaagaz banwaawein ya ye ki bhai iska iss samay dimaag sahi nahin hai kuch na kuch karke koshish yehi karte hain ki ladki ko jo hao uske gharwaalon ko supurd kar diya jae (We create a lot of chaos and rioting, and employ every trick…. We take help from lawyers and sometimes the girl turns out to be a major … it often happens … and she says she loves the boy and has married him and would go with him. In that case, we try our best to find out some way to separate them. We use false documents to declare her a minor or not in right frame of mind so that the girl is handed over to her family).”
Claiming how he enjoyed killing Muslims, Shiv Kumar Sharma says: “Yeh bachpan se hi hai main aapko bataoon… mere upar case chal rahe hain… san 1996–97 mein jab Musalmano ko maarne ke liye nikalte the to poori raat ghoomte the agar koi na maara aur wapas aa gaye khaali haath toh badha ajeeb sa mahsoos hota tha jaise kuch hua hi na ho aur agar kisi Musalman ko maar diya uss din jashn manta tha bas jaise bahut khushi jaise andar hi andar aur jis din kisi Maulvi ko maar diya us din to jaise zameen par pair nahin lag rahe to maine mahsoos kiya tha ki mere pair zameen se 6 foot upar chal rahe the jaise main ud raha hun mera toh sapna tha main police pakde jail jaaoon (I’m like that since my child hood. I have cases pending against me since long… 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 worthless, as if nothing had happened… if we killed a Muslim, we used to celebrate the occasion, and if we managed to kill a Maulvi, then our happiness would know no bounds. I would feel like walking on clouds. I always had this dream that police would arrest me and through me in the jail).”
However, Sharma is unhappy with the BJP as he did not get the kind of support when he needed it most.
Shazia’s conversation with BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, Suresh Rana, gives a peek at a “rescue operation” in Shamli he was a part of. A Hindu girl had gone out with three Muslim boys one evening. Rana alleged that this was a case of “love jihad” and got the boys charged with rape. Rana reveals how they got the girl around to give a false statement against the boys: “Now I will tell you the truth. We charged them with rape, but it wasn’t rape, it was consensual. We slapped a rape case against them to teach them a lesson (Woh toh humne unka ilaaj karne ke liye rape case unke khilaf kara diya). The girl wasn’t ready to give a statement against them. If you look at the case in depth, the girl was willing. Three people didn’t take her away by force.” They used both cajoling and beating to force the girl to retract her earlier statement of absolving the boys of such charge as rape:“Ladki toh ladki hai. Pehle se inke baare main kaha gaya ki paristhithi ke anusaar paanch minute main badal jayein. Jab unke saath thi woh unki thi, jab ghar aur parivaar ko pata lag gaya, gaon ko pata lag giya toh jaisa gaon ne kaha waisa kar diya. Yahan kai ladkiyan aise hain… ki jab shuru main unka pata laga toh woh thane main hi zidd pakad legi ki joh bhi ho main iske saath hi jaungi. Iske bina nahin jaungi, iske saath jaungi, iske saath. Agar do chate lage alag se le jake aur tight kari aur do padi toh woh phir toh FIR likhati bhai. Aji unhone mere saath badmashi ki thi, ek mahine se kar raha tha ji. Phir woh saari story batake turant mukadma likhwaya. Ladki ka kya hai, ladki ko toh jaise bhi mould karoge ho jayegi (A girl is a girl after all. It has always been said about them that they change in five minutes according to the circumstances. When she was with them she was theirs, when the family and villagers found out, she did what the villagers asked her to do. There are several such girls here … when they are found out, they insist ‘No matter what, I will stay with him. I won’t go without him’. If she is taken aside and given two slaps, then she herself goes and gets the FIR registered claiming, ‘They sexually assaulted me … he has been doing it for a month.’ Then she will tell the whole story and slap a case on him. You can mould a girl the way you want).”
Rana throws light on Bajrang Dal’s campaign ‘Beti bachao, bahu lao’. He says, “Yeh loving jihad ka dabav tha. Lagatar humpe aakraman ho rahe hain. aur lagataar betiyon ke saath ye vyavhaar ho raha hai, toh its my challenge, it’s my, uh, ek tarah nyota tha khula nau jawanon ke liye ki aao, ladki bachao, bahu lao (This was because of the pressure of love jihad. There were constant attacks on us. Our daughters were being constantly treated this way. It is my challenge, in a way it was an open invitation to the youth, to join in hands and save our girls [Muslims] and instead get [Muslim] wives).”
The same thread runs with other Hindu outfits down south as our investigation found. Jagdish Shenava, a lawyer by profession and VHP’s Mangalore district working president, also recounts his experience of one such rescue operation on February 29, 2014. He confesses to slapping false cases on Muslim men and admits using mobs to build pressure on the local police. He says, “Legally it is right but in that there is no legality for us. We won’t allow. Ye bahut saara hotels main, yeh disco wisco main Muslim ladka Hindu ladki ko leke jaata hai (Muslim men take Hindu girls to many hotels, discos). We won’t allow.” Recounting one particular case, he confesses that he got a Muslim man arrested on charges of kidnapping and talked the woman out of her decision to be with a Muslim man after “counselling” her.
He also explains how organisations such as his are able to build pressure on the police machinery to take the law of the land into their own hands. He says, “Idhar apna organisation hai na, itna powerful hai ki inspite of being the Congress government they are scared of us because we are so powerful here. Aisa apna organisation bahut powerful hai (Here we have our organisation, it’s so powerful that in spite of being the Congress government they are scared of us because we are so powerful here).” He recounts the incident: “There is a girl called Swati (name changed) from the working class, poor people. She ran away with a Muslim who was already married with three children. She was 21 years old. We protested a lot and we found her after a month. We brought her back and got the man arrested. I kept her in my house for four days. We changed her mind set and got her married again.” The girl was persuaded to leave her lover using both force and counselling, and members of Durga Vahini also help. Says Jagdish Shenava: “Yes, Durga Vahini and monks talk to them. We take them there. If they don’t understand, we use force.” They run counseling sessions to change the mind of such victims of “love jihad” and bring them back to Hindufold.
The Muslim boy had to spend three months in jail as he was charged with kidnapping. But Shinava knows the case won’t stand scrutiny during trial as he says: “We charged him with kidnapping. But it won’t stand in court because the girl is also a major.”
The same day our correspondent met BJP MLC Captain Ganesh Karnik in the party’s headquarters in Mangalore, who claims to have infiltrated the police force with RSS workers: “We have tried to send some of our boys into police. When I talk to students I tell them to join the police. So when we need help there are a lot of karyakartas, RSS. Sixty percent of the young constables are our students.” This infiltration into the police force comes in handy when they need to take the law into their hands.
Captain Ganesh also propagates the myth of “love jihad” and of a Muslim conspiracy to increase their population to convert India into an Islamic state.
A member of the Hindu organisation, Durga Vahini, present there says, “Woh Bajrang Dal kakaam hai. Jo bhi hai police case hai report hai pitai hai jo bhi kuch hai waise zyadatar wohi hota hai ki pitai wagera ka hi reheta hai aur police case hota hai (That’s the job of the Bajrang Dal, whatever it is. Be it the police case or beating up someone, that’s their job).” Such operations are conducted with full preparation in advance and the raiders are accompanied by the men in khaki: “Taiyaari ke saath hi jaate hain police bhi jaati hai (Yes they go prepared, also accompanied by police).”
In case, the girl does not cooperate and insist on her decision, they simply use force and do the counselling later, as the member says: “Nahi, usko pehle toh zabardasti leke ana padta hai (No, we need to bring her here forcefully).”
This a tough job indeed which requires a lot of persuasion apart from physical force and they have a team of over a dozen members which consists of young, elderly and women. After the girls are rescued, they are counselled by women by telling them shabbily the women are treated in Islam and how women are treated as goddesses in Hindu religion. After they have been brainwashed, the Hindu Brigade get them remarried.
When Shazia sought his reaction over phone on what he had claimed during the course of his interview with her, Karnik is diplomatic and reserved in his answer when he says: “I don’t think you are quoting me correctly.” Then he gives a twist to the tale by saying that he respects love between two individuals while in the same breath launches a tirade against Muslim fundamentalism and terrorism, saying: “ … blatantly trying to hurt the emotions and feelings of the majority of the community.” While averring “love jihad is a conspiracy by Muslims to increase their numbers,” Karnik denied having said that Muslims would one day make India an Islamic state.
We found an eerily similar effort by the BJP, the RSS and the VHP to use the myth of “love jihad” and love gospel to polarise communities along religious lines. While in Kerala there is talk of love gospel, in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh the focus remains on the Muslim community and its alleged mission of “love jihad.”
When our correspondent asks VHP worker Hari Shiv Prasad how he gets a girl to the counselling centre, he says, “Hum log raat ko gaye wahan se police ko sab le kar gaye… aur hum log wahan chhaapa maar kar wahan se laye (We went there at night with the police… We raided the place and got her here).” The girl had eloped with a Muslim man and was apparently under the influence of Islam. Then, Hari Shiv Kumar says, “Usko hum counselling ki toh hum logon nay bataya ki aisa shadyantra hai ye sab tab woh jakar man gai (We counselled her and told her that all this is a conspiracy. Then she finally agreed with us).”
If counselling and other such efforts fail to convince such girl back to her family, force become inevitable. Says Shrikar Prabhu, Karnataka’s former BJP’s executive member, “Thik hai aur usse kuch samasya hai usko thik karne ke liye prayatna karenge, counselling karenge… thik hai maa baap se baat karenge… woh sab kay upar woh sab ke hone kay baad bhi woh jaana chahti hai to ham zabardasti se usko lane ka prayatna karenge (We conduct counselling sessions for the girl and talk to her parents, and even then if she does not agree to come with us, we try to forcibly get her down here).”
But when the reporter confronted Shrikar Prabhu again before the release of the story, he straight away denied whatever he had said and claimed to be doing: “Humne wo bataya tha wo jo paper mein ata tha na uske baare mein aapne poochha tha kya hota hai aisa kyon ho raha hai aisa aapne poocha tha (I told you only what is published in papers as you had asked why it is all happening).”
A young Hindu girl in Meerut claimed that she had been raped and forcibly converted to Islam by Muslims. Even before the police investigation could be concluded, the RSS and its affiliate groups were quick to label it as a case of “love jihad.” This then became a pretext for launching campaigns that painted the entire Muslim community as complicit in “love jihad” and hence as a threat. The hate campaign had begun.
In Kerala, the Hindu Helpline has taken to administering drugs to girls who have been “rescued”. These drugs cause temporary amnesia and are used to bring the girl under control if she is “being too aggressive”, says Cijiith from the Hindu Helpline in Ernakulam, Kerala. He claims that parents bring their daughters from as far away as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra for treatment in Ernakulam. He elaborates, “When she is adamant on Islam, we will send her to a religious counselling centre so that she can have a debate with our experts on the Quran. Even with that if she is not convinced, we send her to a medical hospital where she will be kept in a cell, she will be under some medication if she is aggressive… (If she doesn’t relent even then), we will send her somewhere [else] where she can be kept for some days.”
About the impact of such exercises, Cijith says, “There are a lot of classes, a lot of Hindu organisations are working on that. I don’t know how to say it, we are successful in creating fear. ‘Why should I bother?’ That was the question earlier. ‘Because jihad will come to your doorstep today or tomorrow. It may be as your sister, wife or mother. So be careful yourself.’ We have to create a true fear in the society, about Muslims.”
However, Cijith was not as forthcoming when our correspondent told him who she was and what was the purpose of the interview with him and asked him he would like to comment on what he had claimed. He did not like the idea of the story going public.
Lalit Maheshwari, district president of VHP in Muzaffarnagar, admits that the organisation has been mobilising people on “love jihad” for over two years and confesses using pressure on the CJM to influence cases involving Muslim boys. Maheswari confesses to the existence of a lawyers association of the VHP that provides legal aid to “victims” of “love jihad.” He admits that girls are forced to give statements against their Muslim lovers/friends and his team slaps false cases on the boys to build pressure. Teams are formed that engage in door-to-door campaign propagating the myth that Muslims are engaging in “love jihad” and are a threat to Hindu women and to Hinduism in India.
He says, “We have been going to villages for two years now through VHP. I can show you photos. We take our literature and go to villages like Gatyala. We went to the school there and formed a team of four to five karyakartas (workers). We travelled around with them and they started door-to-door campaigns. Everyone was troubled by “love jihad.” What we did in the last two years came of use now. VHP, we started going towards villages. It is difficult to mobilise people in cities, they can’t give time. But villages get together. We kept meeting there, 1,000–1,200 people got together. Old and young.”
Ravish Tantri, chief of Hindu Unity Forum in Kerala, adds fuel to the fire. He says, “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.” He adds that the Congress and the Marxists also support them at times.
Manju, a member of Durga Vahini in Muzaffarnagar, says, “Vishwa Hindu Parishad ye Durga Vahini toh in logon ka bhi sahara kyuki ye sab ek hi hain ek tarike se to un logo ka bhi sahara lete hain ki wo ladki waha pe hai yaha pe bhej do suppose abortion bhi karwane ki nubat aati hai to doctor bhi hamare is type ke hain ki unlogo ko ye sab karwa ke samajha bujha ke (Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Durga Vahini are nearly the same and support those girls who are brought here and suppose a girl needs to get an abortion, we also have doctors who are of the type that they would also make them understand).”
Lalit Maheshwari pitches in. “Do saal pehle yaha karwana bhi pada tha Uttarakhand ki ladki aai thi toh usse bachaya … abortion bhi karwaya uska (Two years ago a girl was brought here from Uttarakhand, whose abortion was done here).” The girl was married off to a Hindu boy by them.
How do they manipulate the girl into going back to her parents? Maheshwari says, “We talk about her future. We tell her the importance of women in our Hindu society. We tell her how we see a woman and how those Muslims look like. How we respect our women and how they only use women as a form of enjoyment and treat her nothing more than a baby-making machine and also generally have a target of keeping three-four wives.”
Cijith of the Hindu Helpline spells out a sinister strategy of causing a riot erupt. He says, “We cannot initiate a riot. That never happens. If I want a riot I can’t just say Hindus and Muslims. They won’t do it. No community will do that. What I can do is I can make all the circumstances ready. I can just initiate the people, I can just irritate the people. And the incident has to happen itself.” He goes on to elaborate how they do it: “We created awareness in society. Don’t think of it as a single incident. It is part of an international conspiracy to create trouble. It is not because of love it is as a part of international agenda. Till that time only the Muslim boy was a culprit there,” says Cijith. “When we create a consciousness amongst the community about this, the whole Muslim people came into an accused state. All the Hindu people are saying that Muslims are doing it. The element of hatred comes there. Then society is ready for a riot. Because of the attitude of Kerala’s people, no riot has happened because law and order situation is more under the control of the government. But then the same incident is happening in UP, there people are armed. They are not controlled by the government. So there when the same incident happened, people took arms and the riots happened. That’s the mindset. That’s how we can make the society ready for riots.”
At a so-called counselling centre in Ernakulam in Kerala, Hindu women who have married Muslim or Christian men are brainwashed into going back to their parents on the grounds that marrying outside their religion is sacrilege. The hapless women are also told that their husbands married them to convert them from Hinduism to their religion.
Our team encounters a counselling session at the centre where a counsellor is explaining to a girl who has married a Christian.
The counsellor tells the girl in Kannada, “When we tried to convince you to come the first time you didn’t agree to come. We have an ideal for how females should be. I have also faced such problems in my family but we are doing this because we want to do something for the betterment of society and specifically for you. Not everyone listens. If we had tried to tell your parents and brought you here, you wouldn’t have come here, if we hadn’t put in so much effort.”
He says, “If we hadn’t brought you somehow or the other at night with your brother… you might see it as cruel but to me it isn’t cruel… there is no violence towards you. When we put you in an ambulance… We feel sad but we have to do this right now. If we have to fight a war, soldiers will get killed. If we don’t fight our nation will lose the war. If I was to just come there and talk to you, you wouldn’t have listened. But now that you have surrendered in front of me, you are listening. If you have strength in you then you won’t talk to us. Similarly, he is not asking you to convert at the moment.”
Then come the veiled threats. “We know who the notary was, everyone involved. We haven’t threatened them at all yet. We know the exact moments. When he got off the bus in Bangalore we knew it, he got off the bus at Madikeri, we knew it. Do you know he threatened your father?”
Now the emotional blackmail by dragging her family into it. “People who have given birth to you, what all should they go through? You loving someone is not a crime but the man you have selected is not a good person. You don’t know his family background, all you know is from meeting his mother and father, you have no idea about their history. You are in a trap.”
The counsellor continues. “If something happens to you, don’t you have to face all these problems? You need your family for this. If he says you have to become a Christian, what will you do? You will have to submit and say okay. And once you have converted you can’t do anything.”
The woman replies, “I don’t want to convert to Christianity.”
Counsellor: “You don’t want to convert, then why did you get converted?”
Woman: “I did not convert.”
Then the counsellor asks her, “Why did you register your marriage under Special Marriage Act? You could have gotten married under Hindu Marriage Act.”
She replies, “I asked the lawyer.”
Woman: “N. C. Pais.”
The counsellor retorts. “N. C. Pais? Do you know who he is? He is one big conversion leader. His job is to convert females to Christianity. You are in one big trap. You don’t understand… If he [her husband] agrees to convert to Hinduism, if he says let’s get married according to Hindu customs…”
He continues his tirade against her Christian husband. “He will ask you to come discuss after the wedding, saying our children, even if you have children or don’t have children… will ask you to convert. You will have to go for Sunday school in church, then you won’t be able to come back. He will not live by Hindu culture after the wedding, you should understand that. Do you know what Special Marriage Act is? You have got married under Special Marriage Act.”
“Everyone who convinced you are all people with the same intention. It is not your fault, if it was your fault can’t we just take you and finish you? But we have given you food, the others have taken care of you like a younger sister. You still don’t understand. You must win our confidence, just that you can convince him.”
“You said you wouldn’t marry him for three years and then you say you married him one year back. When this report came to us, it was one year into marriage. But we get all information, we have all information through RTI, these days you get everything through RTI. Who was a witness etc.”
“What you have done in the past is not wrong, because you were not aware of the facts. But what you are doing now after we have told you all the details is wrong. You think we couldn’t harm him? But we haven’t done any of that.”
The hapless woman doesn’t get much chance to speak in her defence.
Following the trail of “love jihad” in Uttar Pradesh, Cobrapost correspondent went to Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. During the Assembly by-elections of 2014, two cases related to “love jihad” were filed in these districts. One was in Kharkhoda police station of Meerut and the other from Meerapur police station of Muzaffarnagar district. On meeting the investigation officers of the cases, the victims and locals, these were the key issues that came to the forefront.
• Female victims of the two “love jihad” cases changed their earlier statements.
• While giving statements in the FIRs, the women had stated that after marrying Muslims, they were forced to change their religion and were raped.
• In their changed statements, they stated that none of the above was forced on them and it was consensual.
• Names of hardline Hindu groups such as the RSS and the Shiv Sena came to the forefront during the Cobrapost investigation in the Meerapur case.
• In the Kharkhoda case, Cobrapost found the involvement of the Hindu Jagaran Manch, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal.
• Money and property issues were the main reasons behind these two cases.
• A local journalist named Balbir Goswami is directly linked to the Meerapur case.
• There is a lot of difference in the FIR filed at the Kharkhoda police station and the statement given by the female victim.
• Women in both cases confirmed being in a relationship with the accused before the cases were filed.
• Even locals rubbished the cases as being those of “love jihad.”
Case 1: Muzaffarnagar
It was during the time of Hindu–Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh in 2103 when the term “love jihad” first started floating around, adding fuel to the communal fire. In the run-up to the 2014 Assembly by-elections, the Opposition BJP in the state hyped the issue. It was then that a “love jihad” incident came to light in September 2014. A girl called Kajal (name changed) approached Meerut’s Inspector General of Police with the complaint that she was raped by Dr. Abdul Kalam, the owner of a private hospital where she worked. She accused the doctor of threatening to change her religion after marrying her. Eleven people were accused in the case under Sections 498, 376, 323, 295 (A) and 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The FIR was lodged at Meerapur police station. Abdul Kalam was arrested and jailed.
Our correspondent began investigating the case, starting from Meerapur police station. He met Constable Deepa Sirohi, who revealed some surprising facts. She said that the victim had changed her earlier statement and had given it in favour of the accused. To confirm this, our correspondent spoke to Inspector Kamal Singh Yadav at Meerapur police station, who said that neither was the girl raped nor was her religion changed. He said that a local reporter, Balbir Goswami, had spread these “rumours”. Inspector Yadav said that the woman had said, “Koi matter nahi hai aur maine apni marzi sey kari thi ye logon ne behka diya, patrakaro ne… main fir se apne aap aa gai hu pati ke paas, Dr. Abdul Kalam ke paas aur inko zamanat de do (There is no matter as such and I had married him according to my wish. I was instigated by some people and a reporter. Now that I’m back with my husband Dr. Abdul Kalam, I request you to grant him bail).”
Inspector Yadav added that in order to settle matters, some BJP workers came to the police station. He said that that they had targeted all Hindu–Muslim married couples of the area and had tried to persuade the Hindu wives to return to their parents. “Bhajpa ke tamaam karyakarta yahan aye the…inhone kya kia ki jo jo Muslim ladkia jo jo Hinduo ke saath bhagi ya Musalmano ke saath gai thi Hindu ladkian, unko inhone develop kia (BJP workers visited our police station. All Muslim girls who ran away with Hindu boys and vice versa were developed by them into these cases).”
Our correspondent also met Sub-Inspector Khan, who was in-charge of this case. He revealed another astonishing aspect and said that it was about a plot of land which Abdul Kalam had bought in the name of his first wife. This was bothering Kajal. She had later said that Balbir Goswami, the reporter, was from her caste. Sub-Inspector Khan added that while Kajal was giving her statement, many BJP workers were present. After recording her statement, Kajal went to the RSS office.
(Wo kyat ha na ki wo ye tha ki inka usne koi plot liya hoga wo apni bibi ke naam kar raha hoga, choti moti dispute ho gai ab wo… ab uske sath bhi aise uthna baithna tha ye patrkar bhi woha pahuch gaye to wo jo hai wo iski biradri ka tha… uske bad wo bayan den ke bad me wo RSS ke office bhi gai)
Cobrapost then met Mukesh Mishra, the circle officer of Jansath near Muzaffarnagar, who also investigated the case. He echoed what Inspector Yadav and Sub-Inspector Khan had told us: the case had nothing to do with “love jihad.”
Next, we met Kajal’s uncle and aunt, who also refuted claims of “love jihad” and said that it was only a matter of money. They said that the Shiv Sena was involved in hyping the issue. (lakh do lakh tum le liyo lakh do lakh mai le luga.. “love jihad” to bana diya jo unke sangthan ke aadmi the, Shiv Sena ke aadmi the).”
Finally, the Cobrapost correspondent spoke to Kajal over the phone. She said, “Maine shaadi doctor sahib se apni marzi se ki thi (I married doctor saheb because I wanted to).” She added that the issue had been resolved amicably and it was not a case of “love jihad.” She said that she lodged the complaint at the behest of some people and that she is living with her husband and has withdrawn her complaint. She blamed some organisations and media persons for hyping the case (maine apna ye case wapas le liya hai…ye kuch sangthan wale hai aur kuch media wale hai).
Case 2: Kharkhoda
This also occurred during the Assembly by-elections in 2014. The father of a girl called Neha (name changed) from village Sarawa in Meerut district filed a case in Kharkhoda police station on August 3, 2014. In the FIR, the father claimed that Neha had been gang-raped by Kalim of the village’s school and by the village pradhan and that she was forcibly converted to Islam. Her father also demanded an investigation into a mark on Neha’s stomach. The issue was hyped by the local BJP and RSS and made newspaper and TV headlines across the nation.
To investigate the case, our correspondent met Station Officer (SO) Alka Singh of the ladies police station in Meerut, who was the investigating officer. We came to know from her that the victim had changed her statement. Earlier, Neha had complained that she was raped and converted to Islam and had accused nine men. Later, she backtracked and denied the incidents and said that her family was paid money by some groups and politicians. “Mere papa mujhe marna chahte hain. Unko paise ki chaahat thi. Ki matlab paisa nahi aa raha hai ghar per…Kalim se sambandh tha…Kalim se relation tha ek as a friend. Matlab friend kya bolna chahiye love se tha (My father wants to kill me. He wants money as there was no money coming into the family. I had relations with Kalim, as a friend, I mean as a lover),” she said.
SO Alka Singh told us that Neha denied forced conversion and “love jihad.” At the time of our investigation, Neha was living at the ladies foster home in Meerut. The Cobrapost correspondent went to Sarawa to meet Neha’s parents posing as a member of an organisation. Her father denied that he wanted to kill Neha. When we asked her mother about money being paid to them, she said that initially many people came forward to help but ultimately no one did. She added that a politician had handed them down Rs. 25,000, which they never got. “Kaun se neta ne humein paise diye? Ek ne abhi 25,000 diya sabko pata ye…kaun hai woh ye bhi… humein na mile (Which politician gave us money? One has now given 25,000 everyone knows who gave that. But we have not received it),” the mother told Cobrapost.
We tried to track down Hindu organisations that may have been involved in this case, but had no luck, till Neha’s father introduced us to Ashu Tyagi of the Hindu Jagran Manch.
Neha’s father told us that Ashu Tyagi had spearheaded the whole issue and had torn the circle officer’s uniform to create pressure on the administration. He claimed that the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and other organisations had helped him. (Inhone pura kam kara jab ladki aai na inhone CO ke kapde phad diye… yahi hai kai hai Shiv Sena wale bhi hai Bajrang Dal bhi sare hai lag rhe hai apne apne hisab se).
When our correspondent visited Kharkhoda police station and spoke to its SO Manoj, he told us some interesting facts. He said that Neha changing her statements had confused the police and that there was the issue of money between her father and her uncle regarding the Rs. 25,000 given by the politician (Yahi isliye to mai confuse ho raha hu na kya batau aapko main … victim hai uske baap mein aur uske tau ke bich jhagda ho raha hai thik hai kuch sangthan kuch paisa de gaye honge paise ke bantware se sambandhit).
On the trail of the Kharkhoda case, the Cobrapost correspondent Shishupal Kumar reached Sarawa. Here he met Sanaullah, an accused in the cases of rape, kidnapping and fraud. The same cases were lodged against his wife. Sanaullah had got bail after eight months in prison but his wife was still in jail. Sanaullah raises the question that since the girl who had accused him has changed her statement in his favour why has the case not been dismissed?
Sanaullah and his son Irfan say that they are victims of village politics and that they don’t know the prime accused Kalim. He adds that along with the villagers, BJP’s UP state president Laxmikant Vajpayee, BJP’s Vyapar Prakosth’s Vineet Agarwal and BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal, hatched the conspiracy.
When Cobrapost looked at official documents that were filed in the court, we discovered the following facts of the case:
• In the FIR, Neha’s father had complained of a gang rape, whereas the girl has not even mentioned it in her statement
• Six people were accused of gang rape whereas the victim stated it was by just one man
• When Neha was asked again if she was raped, she denied it and gave a scripted answer that she has already spoken enough and shall not speak further
• Though Kalim was the main accused in the FIR, Neha had not mentioned his name anywhere in her statement to police
• In her statement, she said that while she was being raped, she felt as if she was drugged but did not mention how she was given drugs
• The mark on her stomach that her father wanted to be investigated was from the abortion she had in a clinic in Meerut, in which her fallopian tube had to be removed due to blockage of the foetus
• In her statement, Neha said that the abortion was done in Muzaffarnagar whereas the documents submitted in court show that it was done in Meerut under the supervision of Dr. Sabita Jairath
• Neha said in the statement that she was raped in a car on June 29 whereas the investigation report states that she stayed overnight with the accused in a hotel.
Shazia Nigar is a reporter with Gulail.com, and Shishupal Kumar is with Cobrapost.com