"I was for the war before I was against it," said US senator John Kerry in an infamous gaffe that cost him the US presidential election in 2004. The saffron right seems to have taken a similar line on love jihad, except with a twist: They were against the love jihad before they were for it. After raising hell over an alleged -- and as yet unproven -- campaign by Muslim groups to convert Hindu girls through marriage, the Bajrang Dal is now launching its own version of a love jihad in Uttar Pradesh that encourages Hindu boys to marry girls from the Christian and Muslim communities to convert them to Hinduism. Except it has a lot less ominous name, ie 'Bahu lao, beti bachao'.
Avneendra Pratap Singh alias Ajju Chauhan, state co-convener of Bajrang Dal, said the "bahu laao, beti bachao" campaign is aimed at stemming the "love jihad" campaign by Muslims in the country. The aim of the campaign is to save Hindu girls from "falling into the trap" of "love jihadis". It is also aimed at making Muslim or Christian girls daughters-in-law in Hindu households so that they can learn the rich cultural and traditional values of Hinduism.
"You have to understand 'love jihad' for this campaign. Hindus are victims of 'love jihad'. More than one lakh Hindu girls are abducted every year. They are sold in major cities and then sent to Dubai," Chauhan told CNN-IBN."We are doing this for protection of Hindu girls. We are guiding Hindu men to respect and welcome girls of other religions,"
That's the 'bahu lao' bit. The 'beti bachao' initiative includes to Bajrang Dal's plan to conduct 'awareness programmes' at girls' schools and colleges in Uttar Pradesh, to hold debates and bring in 'intellectuals' to talk about the dangers of 'love jihad -- of the Muslim kind.
The group has already identified girl students in Agra to hold awareness campaigns and also plans to have banners and posters near educational institutes to sensitise people, the Times of India reports.
The announcement of the campaign comes on the heels of the controversy generated by the 'ghar vapsi' ceremonies held across the country. Right wing groups were accused of giving incentives to members of Muslim and Christian community to 're-convert' to Hinduism and the scheme caused a furore in Parliament with the opposition targeting the government for failing to curb such events.
Professor Sudhir Panwar, a political analyst based in UP, had told Firstpost earlier, “There is nothing surprising in the recent spate of hate mongering (from ‘Love Jihad’ to ‘Ghar Vapsi’). It was bound to happen with the Sangh Parivar getting stronger with the new government at the Centre. I would say it is a beginning, but we had not expected that it will start so early.”
The campaign against 'love jihad' had reached fever pitch ahead of the Uttar Pradesh bypolls earlier this year, with the MP in-charge of the BJP campaign in state, Yogi Adityanath, leading the charge.
The irony, of course, is that there is little evidence of any concerted campaign on part of Muslim groups to convert Hindu girls through marriage.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Maneka Gandhi have denied any knowledge of the existence of such a campaign. The most controversial example of 'love jihad' that was held up by right wing groups, an incident involving a Hindu girl in Meerut, was later debunked after the girl denied it. The anti-'love jihad' campaign was thought to have died a natural death after the BJP was soundly trumped in the Uttar Pradesh by-elections with even most of its most vitriolic campaigners going silent.
The 'bahu lao, beti bachao' campaign comes in the midst of increased harassment of inter-communal couples, most recently in Gwalior. According to Indian Express, a marriage between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl was declared invalid due to Bajrang Dal pressure even though the girl submitted proof of being a major -- and therefore free to marry who she chose -- and declared that she had entered the marriage with her full consent and not been kidnapped or coerced into conversion.
It is clear that the Bajrang Dal and other rightwing groups -- despite the absence of any discernible electoral -- aren't planning to let go of the issue any time soon, and keep its explosive brand of Hindutva in the headlines.
Updated Date: Dec 29, 2014 14:23 PM