Love Jihad: A Conspiracy or a Political Campaign?
The draconian law passed in the most populous state of India at the beginning of the year is spreading its roots throughout the country. ‘Love Jihad’ is a term used to define interfaith marriages, especially between Muslim men and Hindu women, which have made the lives of hundreds of interfaith couples challenging.
But why is India criminalizing inter-faith marriages? Are the pro-Hindu parties and organizations solely responsible for such laws? And is love jihad really as big of an issue as often portrayed?
Why is India Criminalizing Inter-faith Marriages?
Indian culture is a triumph of the imagination: an enormous mixture of cultures, languages, and worldviews, often at odds with one another, unified by the constitution that defines equal rights and common values for an enormous number of people. The secularism of the Indian constitution has been upheld despite the recent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims, the two largest religious communities in the country.
However, recently these principles are being challenged by a stark rise in Islamophobia throughout the country. Rooted in the sociopolitical ideology, asserting India as a Hindu country has been marginalizing the Muslim communities through policymaking, on-ground activism, and online propaganda.
One of these disfranchising policies is the legislative criminalization of interfaith marriages, so-called “Love Jihad.” On 24th November 2020, the state of UP passed an ordinance against the religious conversion in marriages named Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, popularly known as love jihad-a fanciful and baseless conspiracy theory accusing Muslim men of forcefully converting Hindu women to Islam by luring them into marriage.
Who to Blame: Flip Side of the Coin
Though successive probes fail in finding concrete evidence of such conspiracies, the ordinances have been made laws, currently in action in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The focus while talking about these states goes straight to the fact that all these states are ruled by the pro-Hindu, BJP leaders, but when dived deeper, the demand for such laws from the public also comes out to be a driving reason behind such bills and laws.
Pew Research Center conducted a study entitled, Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation that sheds light on the reality of forced religious conversions and interfaith marriages. Amongst all the Hindus with a keen belief that being a Hindu is vital for being a true Indian, 76% deem it important to restrain Hindu women from being married off into another religion.
On the contrary to the premise of numerous laws against anti-faith marriages, statistically, religious conversions and inter-faith marriages are not much prevalent in India. In the Pew study, only 0.7% of the entire sample opted for religious conversion from Hinduism to any other religion, while 0.8% of the participants raised in different religions now identify themselves as Hindus. In another study conducted by the Indian Human Development Survey, out of all the married women, only a mere 2.2% were married outside their religion.
But, opposite to these numbers, media and politicians portray the issue of religious conversion as extremely widespread in India. Though there are a few cases of forced religious conversions, it definitely does not exist at the scale highlighted in TV news and political speeches.
Love Jihad: Not a New Theory
The recent escalation on the issue might sound new, but the inception of love jihad can be linked back to the 1920s, in the Shuddhi (purification) era. The Shuddhi movement was embarked to reclaim those Hindus who had been forcefully converted to other religions. The movement aimed at orchestrating propaganda campaigns and popular demagogic and inflammatory appeals from the sections of the society against the conversion of women into another religion.
But, with the other independence movements in rage, the Shuddhi movement faded. The current spike in the popularity of the love jihad issue started in 2009 with the Karnataka government’s fake claims of love jihad.
Love Jihad: The Alternate Reality?
The book Art of Conjuring Alternate Reality by academicians Anand Venkatanarayanan and Shivam Shanka Singh highlights how political parties alter the fact to make people believe in an issue that is not as prevalent as framed. According to the book, the BJP government aims to consolidate the Hindu vote bank of the country (Hindus constitute 80% of India’s population) by such campaigns. Be it the love jihad issue or the Ram Mandir, the main focus of these movements is to win the votes of the major population by creating an alternate reality.
The campaigns popularizing the Hindu ideology and making one feel proud of their religious belief are all part of the party’s election narrative. By creating the context of how Muslim men are conjuring to convert Hindu women to make India a Muslim-dominant country, BJP establishes the fear of ‘endangered Hindus’ to radicalize the communities.
Finally, the book concludes how the BJP, along with other pro-Hindu parties and organizations, created the virtual reality of love jihad, not to tackle the forceful conversions but to increase their votes.
In final words, forceful conversions are not a hoax; they are a daylight reality. It is, however, not clear what the evidence is for the scale at which the political leaders and TV media talk about the issue. The conversion laws imposed in several states do not completely ban inter-religious marriages, but still, the consented interfaith marriages are bearing the brunt of this belief of love jihad.
Khalistan Movement – India’s Unity Under Threat (A Brewing Civil War)
A force capable of breaking India into a civil war and driving a second
partition is simmering in Punjab. After losing popularity in one of the
most brutal times in Indian history, the Khalistan movement is rising once
again. With a new face but the same old demands, a separate Sikh nation.
Under Amritpal Singh Sandhu, the self-styled Chief of Khalistanis, the
movement is un-stabilizing the political landscape. And with a comparatively
weak government head of state, the future seems more brim.
But what is the Khalistan movement? Who is Amritpal Singh Sandhu? Why
should the central government be worried about the uprising? And what does it
mean for Punjab and India?
Here’s a detailed explainer:
Understanding the Khalistan
The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement that aims to establish a sovereign state for the Sikhs named Khalistan. This nation should include Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and a few districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The movement first emerged ten years into independent India in 1960. Jagjit
Singh Chohan, the former Finance Minister of Punjab, demanded a separate Khalistan, which gave rise to the movement in the 1970s and reached its peak in the 1980s under Indira Gandhi’s government.
While Jagjit Singh created a Sikh extremist government in Pakistan and
collected millions of dollars from the US to form Khalistan; in India, the
reins of the movement were in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale‘s hands.
Financed by Jagjit and supported by Pak ISI, Bhindranwale’s popularity
skyrocketed in Punjab. Under his leadership, the Khalistan movement grew, with
thousands of extremist Sikhs joining. He urged his followers to restore the Khalsa
(Orthodox Sikh religion) in Sikh society. His protests targeted Hindus and the ‘modernized
“He (Bhindranwale) used offensive language against Hindus. He exhorted every Sikh to kill 32 Hindus to solve the Hindu-Sikh problem”
These were very violent times in Punjab, but all this was coming to an end with Operation Blue Star in 1984. While in a hideout in the Golden Temple, Bhindranwale’s followers continued bombing across Punjab. However, in operation, the Khalistan
the leader was assassinated and took control of the temple.
According to official statements, about 500 militants and civilians died in
the attack, but independent organizations estimate over 3000 deaths. Four months
later, on 31st October 1984, Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was
murdered by her two Sikh bodyguards, which gave rise to anti-Sikh riots. This resulted in the deaths of 8000 Sikhs.
Resurfacing Khalistan Movement
The anti-Sikh riot rooted a hatred amongst Sikhs for the Indian government
and made Bhindranwale a freedom fighter. Post the attack, numerous incidents, including the attack on an Air India Plan that left over 300 dead, followed.
While the Indian government stabilized the situation in the country’s popular
Kahlistani militants started operating from the US, UK, and Canada. The group
even used the latest farmer’s protest to increase militancy in Punjab.
So Bhindranwale died, but the Khalistan movement survived, and now they have a new leader – Amritpal Singh Sandhu.
Who is Amritpal & How He Became the Leader of the Khalistan Movement?
Born in 1933, Amritpal Singh Sandhu was a normal man living in Dubai. But the
name, unfamiliar just a few months back, has now become a popular leader in
Named Bhindranwale 2.0, Deep Sidhu became a controversial figure during the
2020 farmer’s protest after starting the ‘Waris Punjab De’, a social
organization. After his death, Amritpal took the leading position in the
Before joining the organization two years back, Sandhu didn’t even wear a
turban. But soon after joining, he underwent a remarkable transformation,
rising to a position of influence and power in the Kahlistani movement.
Amritpal took his anointment in the native village of Bhindranwale, who
serves as Sandhu’s inspiration. Since September 2022, he started dressing like
his inspiration and even began carrying a steel arrow, precisely like
Bhindranwale has done in the past.
Amirtpal claims his agenda is to bring in the religious and social transformation
to Punjab. But his group has also attacked and vandalized Gurudwaras (Sikh
temples). Similar to Bhindranwale, Sandhu delivers ferocious speeches in an
effort to pique the interest of Punjab’s youth.
He urges them to give up narcotics and get involved in the effort to
resurrect the “panth” and rid it of its “slavery” mentality. He openly criticises other religions and supports “sampuran raj” in place of “Waziri,” or slavery, in a manner
reminiscent of Bhindranwale.
For his controversial remarks, most recently directed at Union Home Minister
Amit Shah, he said, “his fate will be similar to that of former prime minister
All this soon bubbled up to the Anjala police station attack.
The Anjala Police Station Attack
“If the fire lodged against me isn’t scrapped within one hour, the administration
of Punjab should be held responsible for the consequences”
Six months back, the Punjab police arrested Lavpreet Singh, a leading member
of the Waris Punjab De organization. Protesting against the arrest and the FIR on Amripal, the supporter of Sandhu surrounded the police station in massive numbers on 23rd February.
To impede the aggressive demonstrators – armed with swords – police
barricaded the area with additional forces brought in from five districts. In
now-viral videos of the violent protests, a huge number of Khalistanis were
seen breaking barricades and attacking the police with swords.
Some reports claim that the mob even took control of the police as the
forces were left overwhelmed by the crowd.
Where is India Going Wrong?
Much like during the Bhindranwale uprising, there’s a pungent political
complicity and opportunism in Punjab. In 1980, the ruling Congress Party and Akali Dal supported the movement in its early stages. That’s why Bhindranwale was not arrested based on myopic political reasoning, which led to violent protests and thousands, including Indra Gandhi’s dead.
History is repeating itself again.
The current AAP government won the state election with the support of
Kahlistani sympathizers. Unfortunately, despite seeing the spiking unrest
caused by the movement, the government is reluctant to intervene firmly, as
seen in the Anjala police station attack.
An annual police meeting held of January 2023 claimed that after 2015, the
attempt to revive militancy in Punjab in on the rise. Just like in 1980s and
90s, the Khalistanis are re-engaging with local criminals group to promote
Numerous reporters are proving that the current Khalistan uprising is fueled
by foreign and local actors. Targeting mostly youth, vulnerable Sikh into their
devious plans the organization is actively running misinformation campaigns on
social media against Indian establishments to dispel any disconnect between the
larger Sikh diaspora and the Indian government.
The Threat to India’s Unity
Instances of politics powered by religion are not uncommon in India. And
while some issues must be addressed within the bounds of the law and democratic
politics, but accepting it and legitimizing Hindu majority politics, as
represented by the demand for Hindu Rashtra is a whole other story.
The most obvious risk of religious politics, as seen in the Khalistan
movement, can also provoke other religious extremist communities to protest.
Once, Amritpal questioned why no legal action was taken against communities
calling for a Hindu Rashtra.
India’s civilizational unity is based on the diversity of different
religions and ethnicities. That’s why attempts to forcefully homogenize are
extremely dangerous for the nation.
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya are Christian-majority
states. Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state. Similarly, Punjab is a
Figures like Amritpal try to ignite religious nationalism by infusing
competitive religious supremacism amongst the extremists. Sikhs have long lived
happily with different religions in India, but now harmony is under threat. And
nobody – the government, Punjab, and India – want to relive even a section of
the nightmare of the 1980s.
India: Violence Against Women on Holi Reeks of Communal and Racial Tensions
violence against women during Holi reek of not just communal but recently racial tensions.
Holi is a Hindu festival of colors and is celebrated across India with great enthusiasm. Numerous cases of violence, molestation, and harassment of women and minorities during March 7 and 8 when Holi was celebrated in various parts of the country came to light on social media. While “Bura na mano Holi Hai” (Don’t feel bad, it’s Holi) is used to justify all such nefarious behaviors, where women are most frequently the target, the celebration of Holi in India is frequently tarnished by incidences of molestation and harassment. However, in recent years, the festival has been marred by incidents of violence, particularly against women belonging to minority and marginalized communities.
This year, violence against women during the festivities of Holi emerged in the news of the incident met out to a Japanese woman. However, this was not the only incident of violence against women that took place at the festival of Holi. Other incidents with rather less to no reportage were the attacks to Muslim women and those belonging to marginalized communities. Over the years incidents of violence against women during Holi reek of not just communal but recently racial tensions.
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‘I Was Terrified’: Japanese Woman Tweets After Being Assaulted During Holi
Recently, a video of a group of Indian men assaulting a Japanese woman in Delhi during the Holi celebrations went viral online. The woman responded to the incident on Twitter, calling it “unfortunate” and clarifying that her purpose was not to “defame the festival.” In a series of tweets roughly translated from Japanese, the woman wrote, “I had heard that it was very dangerous for a woman to go out alone during the daytime at the Holi festival, an Indian festival that I participated in, so I participated in the event with a total of 35 other friends. Unfortunately, this kind of situation happened…”
In the video, the men are seen smearing color on a Japanese woman and groping her. One of them even smashes an egg on her head. Before she manages to step away, the woman slaps one of the men who tried to grab her.
The foreign national who had tweeted the video on Thursday quickly deleted it. She claimed she “deleted the tweet” because she “was terrified” by the responses to the video. She posted in Japanese, “On March 9, I tweeted a video of Holi, but after that, the number of RTs and DMs surged more than I had anticipated, and I was afraid, so I deleted the tweet. She continued by saying that she had no intention of “conveying the abnormalities and damages of the Holi festival in India.”
In response to the footage, the police detained three people, among them a minor, in connection with the event. The police have pledged to intensify their investigation, and the woman expressed hope that harassment of women would considerably diminish.
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The Under-reported Crimes- Minor Muslim Girls Raped in Bihar during Holi
This Holi, two minor girls were raped by 2 men including the son of an ex-sarpanch in the Begusarai district of Bihar. Once news broke that two girls, aged 6 and 7, had reportedly been sexually assaulted by the son of a previous Sarpanch while others were playing Holi, the Begusarai district of Bihar was anxious. The girls are from a different community than the accused, who is a Hindu, according to the press statement. The accused Rajkumar alias Chhotu Mahato and his companion approached the minors as they were playing in a school near Panchdir Chowk, according to Begusarai police. The accused had both been drinking. After they raped the two minors, they fled the scene.
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Other Incidents of Violence against Women and Minorities
In a separate incident, a 65-year-old woman in the eastern state of Jharkhand was beaten to death by a group of six people for allegedly stopping them from applying colors to her son. The incident happened during Holi when the woman, who has been identified as Bucchi Devi, got into a fight with the group and forbade them from painting her kid Murari with colors. According to the local police, the group beat the woman and her son until they both passed out. Murari woke up to see his mother laying dead, according to accounts.
In another incident, a video was circulated on social media showing a lone Sikh man being attacked during the festivities of Holi. The disturbing visuals showed him being beaten and his turban being torn off.
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History of Violence Against Women during Holi Festivities
In some parts of India, Holi has been used as a pretext to attack Muslim communities. In 2018, a video surfaced on social media showing a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, throwing color and attacking Muslim women, while chanting religious slogans. The violence is not limited to physical assault but also includes sexual harassment and molestation.
The incidents of violence against women during Holi are a reflection of the larger problem of violence against women in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2019, there were 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women reported in India. These included rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and dowry-related violence.
The government has taken several measures to address the issue of violence against women, including setting up fast-track courts to hear cases of sexual assault and harassment. The government has also launched a national helpline for women in distress. However, these measures have not been enough to curb the violence against women, particularly during festivals like Holi. It is important for the government and civil society to work together to address the underlying social and cultural attitudes that perpetuate violence against women.
The festival of Holi, traditionally a celebration of spring and love, has unfortunately become a time when women are targeted for sexual harassment and assault. The Indian government has taken steps to address violence against women, including the introduction of stricter laws and the establishment of special courts to handle cases of sexual violence. However, implementation and enforcement of these measures remain a challenge, and cultural attitudes toward gender and religion continue to perpetuate violence against women.
The nature of this violence is deeply concerning and highlights the intersectional discrimination faced by Muslim women in India. Not only are they vulnerable to gender-based violence, but they also face religious and communal hostility, which can exacerbate their situation. It is important to acknowledge and condemn all forms of violence against women, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Muslim women, in particular, considering their unacknowledged minority status deserve to live in a society where they can freely practice their religion and move out of their homes without fear of harassment or discrimination.
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India Government Unleashes Bulldozer in Kashmir
Straight out of the Israeli settler colonial playbook, the Indian government has unleashed bulldozers on the houses and businesses of the Kashmiri people in Kashmir. The government claims that the land which is being cleared is state land encroached upon by the owners. In the same breath, the government claims that it is only influential people who are being targeted. It claims that Kashmir-based politicians had encroached on the state land during their rule in Kashmir. The government had assured that poor people would not be touched by the eviction drive. However, the claim is far from the truth as common masses have also been evicted.
Using these claims, earlier the government was evicting people arbitrarily. There were some instances where some shops were sealed in Srinagar even though the property belonged to the shopkeepers and not the state. Some people had requested the government to make the eviction drive transparent. The government later released a list of thousands of people who have supposedly encroached on the state land. Contrary to the Indian government’s claims, the list does not discriminate between the poor and the rich influential people.
Hopelessness and Helplessness in Kashmir
Even though the eviction drive threatens to make thousands of people in Kashmir homeless, the Kashmiri people have not yet resisted the move publicly. There have been no protests in Kashmir. However, there have been protests by Muslims in the Hindu-majority Jammu region. The eerie silence of the Kashmiri people on this matter gives a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to the Kashmiri people.
The Indian government has so intimidated Kashmiri people that there is no resistance to the government’s eviction drive. The current Modi-led regime in India is ruling in Kashmir through fear and intimidation.
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Kashmir’s Civil Society Crushed
The Indian government has crushed the civil society in Kashmir that would work as a buffer between the state and the people. Most of the civil society members are incarcerated in different jails across Kashmir. Similarly, Kashmiri human rights activists have also been jailed for one or the other pretext.
Therefore, there is really no one in Kashmir who would talk to the government on behalf of the Kashmiri people to stop this eviction drive. The leadership that would steer Kashmir through this difficult drive is in Indian jails.
Indian Civil Society Not Forthcoming
The Modi-led Indian government has also silenced civil society and human rights organizations in India. Members of Indian civil society that were sympathetic to Kashmiri people and human rights organizations in India have been silenced. Amnesty International’s Indian branch was also shut down after the government went after it for receiving alleged illegal foreign funding.
This has left Kashmiris without any allies in India. Nobody now talks about the Indian government’s wrongdoings in India.
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Media in India Silenced
The media in Kashmir does not really report anything beyond what the government tells them to report. Kashmiri media outlets and journalists have been reduced to stenographers who just parrot the sentences that the government’s public relations department feeds them. There have been no independent reports on the eviction drive by any media outlet in Kashmir.
It must be mentioned that the government successfully silenced the media in Kashmir after it jailed many journalists for reporting anti-national news. The jailed journalists have been upheld as an example by the government for other journalists in Kashmir.
Similarly, the media in India has been silent on the eviction drive in Kashmir. All the media outlets except a few independent outlets have defected to the government’s side. The independent media outlets are very cautious with their news reports as the government has filed many against all of them.
The state of media in India as well as Kashmir has made it impossible to get any news on Kashmir that is critical of the government.
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Digitization and Privacy
Interestingly, the eviction drive came after the government digitized the land records. Nobody had thought the digitization of land records would be used to evict Kashmiri people from their homes. Now the government has said that it intends to give every family in Kashmir a unique number to identify it. The purpose of such an exercise is supposed to provide services in a hassle-free manner. However, the Kashmiri people cannot believe any such word from the government. It would interfere with the privacy of the people and would lead to dislodging of the Kashmiri people.
The eviction drive is one of the many inhuman policies that the Indian government has implemented in Kashmir. Before the eviction drive, the government brought a media policy in order to silence the media. Similarly, the properties of people who are supposedly anti-nationals were seized earlier by the government. Many people are in jail for alleged anti-national activities. The Indian government is not going to stop here and will come up with other policies in future to make sure Kashmiri people are completely disempowered.
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