‘Love jihad’ – the supposed act of Muslim men marrying (and converting) Hindu women as an act of religious war, according to the Hindutva cabal in India – is an abhorrent, insidious, reactionary, patriarchal, misogynist and anti-Muslim political project to undermine the liberal, secular and constitutional democratic society in India.
The freedom to love and marry in India is part of the right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Indian constitution. It is further fortified by the Special Marriage Act (1954), which upholds the secular character of individual right to love and marry outside one’s own religion and caste.
But secular, democratic and constitutional rights are antithetical to religious fundamentalism. They are a threat to their well-established hierarchical authority over people. They are opposed to their unnatural and unscientific approach to life, love, marriage and society.
So, the Hindutva forces and their right-wing religious brethren among Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and the casteist moral police find themselves in the same boat, opposing the youthful spirit of Indians to love and marry outside their medieval social, religious and cultural orders. These reactionary forces are the soul of honour killings. Data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that honour killing is a growing problem in India.
The state and government in India are supposed to be secular and protect the constitutional rights of Indian citizens. But in reality, Hindutva-led governments at the centre and several states have been pandering to the regressive instincts of right-wing religious, cultural, social and political groups.
Now, states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), starting with Madhya Pradesh, are planning to introduce harsh legislation to make ‘love jihad’ illegal. The BJP and its Hindutva affiliates consider ‘love jihad’ as a trap of Muslim men to marry Hindu women and convert them into Islam. This will change Indian demography, they argue.
Such Islamophobic propaganda is not only statistically false but also dangerous for civil liberties of all Indians irrespective of their religious and caste backgrounds. The objective of such ideological propaganda is to malign Muslim communities and ensure a caste-based hierarchal and hegemonic Hindu social, political and religious order, which is concomitant with other religious right-wing forces.
The law against ‘love jihad’ is primarily against freedom of youth. It is fundamentally against progressive social and political transformation towards an egalitarian society in India.
‘Love jihad’ derives its ideological inspiration from the writings of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, one of Hindutva’s foremost ideologues, and his ideas outlined in his book We, or our nationhood redefined. Golwalkar argued for purity of the Hindu race. Hindutva forces, like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and BJP are simply following his footprints and his reactionary ideals.
The Brahmanical Hindu purity project of Hindutva derives its intellectual strength from the works of UN Mukherji. His book Hindus: A Dying Race, particularly, was an inspiration for the Hindu Mahasabha. The ongoing campaign against ‘love jihad’ by the Hindutva fascists today resembles the assertive mass mobilisation of Hindus by the Arya Samaj and other reactionary Hindu revivalist organisations during 1920s. The purification movement led by several Hindu organisations during that period echoes today.
Ultimately, love jihad is an extension of purity of the Hindu race based on Brahmanical and patriarchal caste order, where women and men are subservient to its social, cultural, religious and political hegemony.
The great irony is that Hindutva leaders who watch porn in state assemblies, rape women, maim and lynch fellow Muslim citizens in the name of cultural and religious nationalism, are today preaching about protecting women from some fictitious anti-Hindu cultural war.
Yet, there is a striking similarity between Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists when it comes to the idea of love and marriage. Their method of command and control of individual freedom follows similar ideological pattern. The goal of these religious groups is to oppose equality and liberty of individuals in the matters of their everyday lives. The spectre of love hurts the religious and right-wing groups because love is a great equaliser in any society.
The narrow silo of religion and capitalism destroys all material and spiritual foundations of love and life. Both capitalism and feudal religious forces institutionalise love for reproduction. In capitalism, love depends on caste, class and racial compatibilities to preserve their inheritance with the help of marriage for reproduction, accumulation, dominance, and preservation.
Religious forces promote love as an idea of purity and honour confined within women in particular and men in general. These forces tend to locate purity and honour in food habits, dress, body and sexuality. The domestication of love and its institutionalisation is central to both capitalism and feudal religious forces. It destroys organic love and relationships between fellow human beings, nature and animals.
Inter-faith marriages need to become a social, cultural, religious and political project of all progressive, liberal and democratic forces in the society. In fact, interfaith, inter-religious, inter-racial, inter-caste and inter-community marriages are central to defeating the reactionary religious order, which reinforces and sustains all forms of inequalities.
Therefore, the struggle for equality is a struggle to defend the idea of ‘love jihad’. Love is the only way to overcome different caste, class and gender barriers. Only love can create shared spaces of peace and collective security. Only love can only defeat the capitalist project of commodification of human lives and liberties. Only love can defeat the capitalist pandemic of loneliness and help human beings overcome alienation in a capitalist society.
The collective struggle in defence of ‘love jihad’ is important so as to reject Hindutva-led Islamophobia and ensure Indian youth’s constitutional rights to love and marry whomever they like and divorce whenever they want. Love and relationships are not supposed to be non-living entities or unchangeable commodities in the name of stability, family and society.
Hindu-Muslim marriages is a potential weapon against all forms of bigotry. Love can be used as a tool of all emancipatory struggles. Love, live and laugh to sustain a continuous and united struggle against all religious and reactionary forces for the sake of peace and survival of human lives. In every page of history, love always wins and the power of kings and their empires always failed the test of time. Love survives despite and amidst all odds of time.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak is a political economist based in Coventry, UK. He researches and writes on political economy of religion, market, business and development.