When Religious Politics Fuels Murder: The Myth Of "Love Jihad"
A man wearing clothes coloured the same as his bleeding victim, uses an axe-like weapon to kill. His eyes are filled with rage, without a speck of remorse. In the depth of the woods, the murderer’s crazed screams of hate overpower the dying man’s cries of pain. Later, a half-charred dead body is found, hardly recognisable.
This isn’t the description of a gory scene from a Hitchcock movie. It isn’t fabricated but a real-life incident where a man killed another for the myth of “Love Jihad”. He feels Muslim men are ruining gullible minds of young Hindu women, enticing them in love and converting them to Islam.
Yesterday, video clips of a man in red shirt, white trousers, and a white muffler, mercilessly hacking another man to death before burning his body, circulated on social media.
The incident took place in Rajsamand, Rajasthan, a district about five hours from the state capital Jaipur. Shambhulal Regar, hacked to death and later burned the body of a Muslim labourer, Mohammed Afrazul, while Regar’s minor nephew purportedly recorded him. In one of the videos, his 13-year-old daughter can be spotted.
The 48-year-old victim was from Malda, West Bengal and had come to Rajasthan as a labourer 12 years ago. Regar killed him while screaming communal rants against “love jihad” and “Islamic jihad”.
Police say Regar claimed to Afrazul that he needed help with directions. In the video, Afrazul can be seen walking ahead of Regar when he suddenly ambushed him. While brutally hacking him to death, Regar looks to the camera and says, “Jihadiyon, tumhari ye halat hogi. Jihad khatam kar do nahi toh har jihadi ki ye halat hogi. (If you don’t stop your Jihad, this will be the fate of all Jihadis.)”
In other videos, he can also be quoted as saying:
“Agar mujhe marna hi hai, kyu na maar ke maru? Har baar hum hi kyu mare inn se? (If I have to die, why shouldn’t I first kill? Why should we always be the ones dying in the hands of Jihadis?)”
“Meri sabhi Hindu behno se prarthana hai ki app inn Jihadiyon ke prem jihad mei na phase. (It is my request to all my Hindu sisters to not fall in the trap of love Jihad)”
He referred to movies like PK and Padmavati and said, “humare Devi Devtaon ka apmaan kiya ja raha hai, humare Hindu Dharm ke itihass ko badla ja raha hai. (our Gods and Goddesses are being insulted with such movies altering the history of Indian culture.)”
While many are disturbed at the sight of the brutal murder, there are several who have praised Regar’s efforts.
The myth of “Love Jihad”
The term “Love Jihad” was first mentioned in around 2007 in Kerala and the neighbouring state of Karnataka, but gained a spot in public discourse two years later.
Originally, it was referred to as “Romeo Jihad”.
In 2009, Catholic churches in Kerala and Hindu groups in Karnataka alleged that thousands of women were lured by Muslim men into converting to Islam. Subsequently, the Kerala High Court ordered a police probe and in 2012, the police categorically denied that “Love Jihad” was taking place. It said that there was “no substance” to validate the claims.
Recently, the Kerala “Love Jihad” case has gained immense attention with the state HC, the apex court and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) intervening in the marriage of two consenting adults. The matter is still being heard in the Supreme Court after the Kerala HC quashed the marriage between Hadiya, a Hindu and Shafin Jahan, a Muslim.
Despite no evidence, the term is peddled by far-right Hindu groups as propaganda for political gains.
“There is nothing that proves “Love Jihad” exists. It is a way to control women and to build up the bogeyman of evil Muslims,” Charu Gupta, a professor of history at the University of Delhi, said, per a report by Al Jazeera.
A conspiracy for political gains
“Love Jihad” was widely used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during elections in Uttar Pradesh. CM Yogi Adityanath said that it is a reality in Kerala. The Chief Minister of the state with the highest number of Parliamentary seats has also been caught on camera exhorting Hindu men to marry 100 Muslim women if one Hindu woman is “forcibly converted” to Islam. He propagated that if one Hindu is killed, a hundred Muslims should be murdered.
BJP has repeatedly resorted to such polarisation of electorates along religious lines.
UP’s BJP legislator Sangeet Som had convened a Mahapanchayat in his constituency Sardhana, Meerut ahead of Assembly polls to take up the issue of “Love Jihad”. The party’s Unnao MP Sakshi Mahajan claimed that Madrasas offer cash rewards to girls for “Love Jihad”.
BJP’s former Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan was quoted as saying there is a “dangerous conspiracy to expand this operation.” The leader of the Ministry (Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation) he currently works under, Uma Bharti, had said that “Love Jihad” is a “social problem” and that “solution to it can be found only by parents concerned and religious leaders.”
The list goes on.
Theories such as “Love Jihad” aren’t new. Since time immemorial, Hindu revivalist bodies have advertised similar conspiracy terms to broaden the Hindu-Muslim divide. In a country where nearly 80% of the population comprises of Hindus, BJP is keeping its votes in pockets with a spate of hatred and intolerance.
Shambhulal Regar hacked Mohammed Afrazul to death without a tinge of repentance because his thoughts against interfaith marriages are emboldened by the current state of affairs in the country.
Where is the condemnation by Centre?
A man was killed in broad daylight but the Centre is mute. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje condemned the murder but to what effect? Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also “condemned” the wave of mob lynchings in the country after almost a year of silence. But have lynchings stopped after the PM called India “the land of Gandhi”? Words hold power only when backed by actions. The government cannot preach non-violence while parallelly banking on religious divide.
A man was killed in broad daylight but the discourse is on Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “neech” remark on PM Modi which the BJP has most cleverly turned into caste politics.
A man was killed in broad daylight, with the video published several times on social media. The venom spread in the nation is clearly visible in the perpetrator’s words.
Where is the condemnation by PM Modi, or by BJP President Amit Shah who made good use of 280 characters on Twitter to express how the PM has been insulted by Congress in the past?
This isn’t the first case where religion/caste politics took a life in Rajasthan.
In April this year, Pehlu Khan was lynched to death for transporting cows in Alwar. With him were four others who were also beaten mercilessly by dozens of people. The video of the incident was viral on social media.
Two months later, 55-year old Zafar Hussein was lynched to death by civic officials in Pratapgarh when he attempted to stop them from taking photographs of women defecating in the open.
Last month, Umer Mohammed was murdered by gau rakshaks for transporting cows.
Cow politics, “Love Jihad” are campaigns against a plural society to keep the vote bank intact. It is nothing more than cheap politics to keep the discourse away from real issues.