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Tools for Divisive Politics: Hate Speech and Patriarchy : Love Jihad propaganda spurs hate, not dialogue
09/20/2014
By Ram Puniyani

After the last general elections where Narendra Modi and his party won a majority overwhelmingly, the BJP has not been doing so well in subsequent by-elections. The Lalu-Nitish experiment is one model, but whether it will be replicated in different parts of the country is a million-vote question. The BJP appears to resort to the basic tools of divisive politics. On one hand Yogi Adityanath, with his venomous ‘hate speeches’ has come up as BJP’s major player; on the other the word of mouth propaganda of ‘love jihad’ is being spread like wildfire.

This year, Adityanath began his hate attack on Muslim minorities blaming all communal riots on Muslims when he campaigned for the BJP ahead of the general elections. In subsequent speeches he went on to make similar baseless allegations such as wherever Muslims are in the majority there is more trouble, or that when they trigger the violence then they also have to face the consequences.

None of this is grounded in the analysis of the communal violence in India. Referring to ‘Love Jihad,’ Adityanath said that if ‘they’ convert one Hindu girl, we will convert 100 Muslim girls. His unrelenting ‘hate speeches’ are going on at the time when the Prime Minister himself has asked for a ten-year moratorium on violence. Mr. Modi seems to be deliberately looking the other way when all this Hate propaganda is on.

The ‘Love Jihad’ propaganda is a double-edged weapon: By stating that Muslim youth are being trained to lure Hindu girls, on one hand they demonize Muslims and on the other they tighten their control of the lives of girls and women. In this propaganda, Hindu women are projected as gullible, easy to be lured and incapable of deciding for themselves. In a way the communal agenda’s twin goals are achieved here. Communal politics wants to marginalize the religious minorities at the surface level and at the deeper societal level it aims to restrict the rights and freedom of women.

BJP affiliates are not only indulging in word-of-mouth propaganda on this issue. They have also started forming fronts to oppose ‘love jihad,’ some of them have come up in western UP, and more seem to be in the offing. VHP has come to the forefront on this issue by stating that “Patriots will support our crusade against ‘love jihad’ that is leading the country towards another partition.” One more Sangh Parivar-related organization, the Dharma Jagran Manch, has started a similar campaign which is appealing to Hindus to oppose the ‘threat’ of ‘love jihad.’

As far as Hindu girls being converted to Islam through Love Jihad is concerned, it is a hoax- there is no doubt about that. A friend wrote from UP that he was to talk in a girls college there. He met a young faculty member all charged up to save Hindu girls, claiming that over 6,000 girls have been converted in his area. When confronted to give the names of some of the alleged converts, he retracted, saying he has heard rumours of it and so it must be true.

A booklet priced Rs 15 about the Love Jihad conspiracy has been published by some Hindu zalots: 'How to Save Our Women from the Terrorism of Love Jihad'. It contains some alleged case studies. Most of these stories feature a typical pattern: a young Hindu woman lured into a relationship or into marriage by a Muslim man who had allegedly posed as a Hindu. It is claimed that those who get married often convert to Islam and need to be 'rescued' and this is where the RSS affiliates want to pitch in according to their plans.

While lot of historical material has come out on the issue of Love Jihad, two items in particular need to be mentioned. Many analysts have compared the Modi politics with the politics indulged in by Hitler, who used a similar tactic to polarize German opinion against the Jews, who were called the ‘internal enemy’. The Nazi propaganda held that Jewish young men had been luring German girls and polluting the purity of Aryan blood with a view to subjugating the German nation.

Similar tactics were adopted by Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasbaha in India in the 1920s, when organizations to save the honor of Hindu women were formed and pamphlets like ‘Hindu Auratonki Loot’ (Loot of Hindu Women) were brought out. This propaganda was a potent weapon to polarize the communities along religious lines.

Can this be combated in some way? There is news that some Muslim youth have planned peace marches in the areas to create an atmosphere of amity. I hope more such marches take place and can restore the sanity of our society and surely members from the majority religious community will join these marches spontaneously to boost the amity amongst communities.