No Muslims allowed: Forget love jihad, we now have 'Garba jihad'!

Bhai, what is this “love jihad”?

Arre hai kiya? Humein nahin maloom, (What is it? I don’t know it) ” Home Minister Rajnath Singh tells the media with a smile.

Digvijaya Singh promptly writes an open letter to the minister asking him to brush up on his reading of RSS mouthpieces Panchjanya and Organizer. “The cover stories are on love jihad,” says Singh.

Or Rajnath Singh could just go to Garba nights in Godhra. Or Indore.

 No Muslims allowed: Forget love jihad, we now have Garba jihad!

The latest battleground for the so-called "love jihad" are garba halls in Godhra. Agencies

Apparently that’s the newest battleground for love jihad.

According to the Indian Express, the newly formed Hindu Asmita Hitrakshak Samiti will create a team of “volunteers” who will ensure no Muslim youth can get inside a garba venue this Navratri though a Muslim councilor in Godhra insists he has got invitations every year and these directives from “unelected” people were “baseless”.

However Jaimin Shah, a member of the Samiti is clear. “Why should they be so keen on participating in garbas? They do so to lure Hindu girls. We are here to oppose such intrusions and stop them,” Shah tells Indian Express.

Shah does not explain what irresistible charm these Muslim garba-crashers wield to seduce Hindu women right in the middle of a big dance hall while surrounded by throngs of festive gaily caparisoned Hindu men. Were they hitting on the twirling women while the men were lining up for plates of khandvi and dhokla?

Shah did say the presence of Muslims “made no sense” at a religious event for “our wives, daughters and sisters”. Even last year the organizers had asked around half a dozen Muslim men to leave the venue.

Were they causing a ruckus? They “might” have created a nuisance says Shah.

When it comes to garba-poaching, pre-emptive measures are very important.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led by Praveen Togadia has blessed the endeavour. Togadia has demanded that ID cards of participants be checked at all garba venues.

“Navratri is the festival of Mother Amba’s prayers and worship, so we cannot allow beef-eating Muslims to enter into garba places," says Togadia. No word about beef-eating Christians or for that matter beef-eating Hindus.

Togadia who has a long history of crossing swords with Modi clearly relishes fishing in troubled waters. He wants to bait and draw out Modi more than anything else. Godhra remains potent shorthand for the starting point of the 2002 bloodbath after 58 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burned in a train there. As PM Modi tries to put 2002 well behind him, Togadia would like nothing better than to try and bring Godhra back into the spotlight and an inflammatory decree trying to ban Muslims from Garba is just the ticket. It’s not about banning Muslims from Garba, it’s about the idea of it.

But while Rajnath Singh can coyly feign ignorance about “love jihad”, other BJP politicians are happy to rush in where Singh fears to tread.

The Daily Bhaskar reports that Indore’s BJP MLA Usha Thakur is planning to write to all garba organizers in the state asking them to “restrict entry of Muslim men to the dance venues and seducing women”. Thakur alleges nearly 4.5 lakh Hindu girls got converted last year during the garba festival. Wherever she gets this number from, this points to an urgent need, more than anything else, for the Hindu Asmita Hitrakshak Samity to invest more energy in Romancing 101 workshops for Hindu men.

The Congress leader Manish Tewari tells ANI that the “synchretic culture of India” is strengthened when we participate in each other’s festivals. We can be skeptical about whether young Muslim men, if they do indeed show up at Garba festivals, are there for an interfaith project of synchretic nation-building or just to have fun and yes, watch women dancing. But ogling is hardly a character trait unique to Muslims men. Or is it that during Garba, Hindu men only look at the dancing women fondly as maa-behen-beti while their Muslim counterparts are making their chhupa Rustam moves?

This would all be utterly ludicrous if it was not becoming used as a political organizing tool. The beauty of the love jihad conspiracy is it does not really need facts and figures. Like all good conspiracies it thrives on rumour and anecdote. BJP leaders Shahnawaz Khan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi might be married to Hindus but there’s always a counter example like that of Tara Shadeo and Ranjit Kumar Kohli/Raqibul Hasan Khan to keep the conspiracy fires stoked.

Love jihad conspiracy theorists are also quick to trot out the story of a sex scandal in Britain from 2010 where a group of Pakistani men were found guilty of sexually exploiting teenaged white girls some as young as 12, many from troubled homes, in the town of Rotherham by plying them with gifts of alcohol, drugs and gifts. This was an abominable sex abuse story now being dressed up as Exhibit A in the Love Jihad conspiracy. But it was a horrendous sex trafficking racket, nowhere close to a proselytization mission to marry women from another religion under false pretexts and turn them into good Muslim wives. The authorities said they were slow to act because of political correctness, afraid of being perceived as racist. That argument wears a little thin after 1400 girls fall prey to this racket over 16 years and the Guardian says that’s also to cover up for a “cozy indifferent bureaucracy” with their “own prejudices about the poor”.

“Like all slanders, 'love jihad' works best in places where communal violence has already stoked distrust and hostility,” writes Mukul Kesavan on NDTV. He says it’s not a “coincidence” that after the Muzaffarnagar riots an allegation that used to be part of the “Parivar’s lunatic fringe” is now “the BJP’s favourite meme.” And Amit Shah can both call it a “media creation” and at the same says there is nothing wrong with the BJP responding to “a grave social problem” in “genuine cases of injustice”.

In short, you can deny your love jihad and have it too.

The UP by-election smack for the BJP is not a referendum on Modi who is now safely PM but it is hopefully a comment on that kind of wink-and-nudge divide-and-rule policy using the likes of Yogi Adityanath. It hardly means the Samajwadi Party with an Azam Khan is the standard bearer of secular “synchretic” values but as Tavleen Singh notes on Twitter “The BJP could pay in U.P for changing the subject form 'vikas' to love jihad. The PM did not win a full mandate for Hindtuva.”

That lesson will likely not percolate to Hindu Asmita Hitrakshak Samiti or Usha Thakur who want to drag the politics of majoritarian victimhood inside the dance circle. And despite UP, Modi will not want to publicly smack down a Praveen Togadia and thus give him the recognition he craves. But someone should alert Modi to the annual Sheri Garba organized by the alumni association of St Xavier’s College spearheaded by folks like Shaunak Parikh and Naved Siddique.

It’s happening this year, as always, St Xavier’s College confirms to Firstpost and best of all it’s in the PM’s own backyard of Ahmedabad. Mr. Modi could even stop by and prove that sometimes a dance move can speak way louder than words.

Updated Date: Sep 17, 2014 11:27:36 IST