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Love Jihad Takes A Virulent Form In Bengal

Author: Jaideep Mazumdar
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date: July 17, 2018
URL:      https://swarajyamag.com/amp/story/politics%2Flove-jihad-takes-a-virulent-form-in-bengal?__twitter_impression=true

A determined love jihad agenda has to be fought by increasing awareness among Hindu girls and families, stepping up vigilance, putting in place strong deterrence and meting out exemplary punishment to the abusers.

Love jihad - the deliberate wooing of Hindu girls by young Muslim men - has taken a virulent form in Bengal. Hindu girls spurning their advances or refusing to convert to Islam after falling victim to their evil machinations are being attacked and killed. Unfortunately, the state administration and Bengali civil society have adopted an ostrich-like attitude, not only refusing to heed the dangerous trend, but trying their best to bury it all under the carpet.

In a span of 10 days, three Hindu women were attacked or killed in the outskirts of Kolkata by Muslims frustrated in their love jihad attempts. A teenager in Baruipur, a suburb of Kolkata, where a huge number of illegal Bangladeshi migrants have settled down, was gangraped by a few Muslim young men after she spurned the advances of one of them. She committed suicide. Last Thursday, a woman who was in a relationship with a Muslim man but had refused to embrace Islam was shot dead in front of her parents outside her house in Konnagar in Kolkata’s outskirts. On Saturday morning, a Muslim youth, a tailor by profession, attacked and severely injured a teenage girl studying in Class X with a pair of scissors at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas adjoining Kolkata, for turning down his advances. She is battling for her life in a hospital.

These are just three incidents that have been reported. Many similar cases in Bengal go unreported or are hushed up and passed off as routine crime. While most newspapers or TV channels do not report such crimes, some do it very perfunctorily and almost never giving out the identities of the accused. And, say some police officers, many such crimes are dealt with in Bengal’s infamous shalishi adalats (kangaroo courts) that let off the accused with penalties or light punishment. In the Muslim majority areas of districts like North and South 24 Parganas, Malda, Murshidabad, North and South Dinajpur and Nadia (all bordering Bangladesh), abduction of Hindu girls and their forcible marriage to Muslim men has seen an alarming rise, says Hindu Samhati founder Tapan Ghosh.

A senior police officer, who did not want to be identified, says that the number of inter-community marriages (read: marriages between Hindu girls and Muslim boys) has risen sharply in Bengal over the last few years and most of them are reported from the Muslim-majority districts or Muslim-majority areas of other districts. “Most such marriages are by force. The modus operandi is simple yet sinister: woo Hindu girls, have physical relationship with them, spread the word around to shame them and then offer the hand of marriage to them. The shamed girl and her family accept the offer. And in almost all such cases, the girl is converted to Islam before marriage. Her family can do nothing about it and can’t even lodge a police complaint,” said the officer.

Confirming this, Ghosh said that he receives many complaints from helpless parents whose daughters have fallen prey to such machinations. “These are definitely not isolated incidents and everything is being done in a very pre-planned manner. I have received reports that Muslim boys are actually encouraged to lure Hindu girls, trap them and then marry them after converting them to Islam. They are often rewarded handsomely for such acts,” said Ghosh, who has initiated a counter-campaign to create awareness among Hindu girls about the pitfalls of ‘falling in love’ with Muslim boys.

Hindu Samhati has been, of late, trying to spread awareness about love jihad. “Very often, the girls are too much in love and enamoured by the false promises made by their Muslim paramours or are too headstrong to heed our warnings,” said a Hindu Samhati leader. He also said that in many such marriages, the newlyweds shift away from their villages or towns and, hence, it becomes impossible to keep track of what happens to the girl after marriage. “Often, the parents of a girl who gets married to a Muslim and converts to Islam cut off links with her. So we have no way of knowing her eventual fate. There have some cases, though, of such girls and women returning home after being unable to bear the torture at their in-laws. But most such girls who marry Muslim boys are so badly trapped in their marriages that they just cannot return,” he said.

As narrated earlier, Hindu girls who reject advances of Muslim boys or refuse to convert to Islam are now facing violence. “There has been a noticeable rise in the number of cases of Hindu girls being attacked by their Muslim suitors or lovers. In the few cases where the accused have been arrested, they have confessed during interrogation that the attacks were not spur-of-the-moment ones but premeditated. The accused said they were driven by the desire to teach girls a lesson for their defiance. But we suspect that such attacks are carried out also to demonstrate to other girls not to be defiant,” said the police officer who was posted in Murshidabad a couple of years ago.

A Trinamool Congress spokesperson rubbished the ‘love jihad’ allegations and said such “false issues” are being raised to divide society along religious lines for electoral purposes. “There is a long history of inter-community marriages in Bengali society, which is essentially inclusive, tolerant and secular. The 'love jihad' narrative is a false and insidious one. Two people can fall in love and get married. As long as they are of legal age, their marriages are nobody’s business. People of Bengal will not fall for such tactics to divide them on communal lines,” said senior minister Jyotipriya Mullick.

He added that the recent incidents were not indicative of any trend. “We do not look at these incidents – rapes and attacks on women – through a communal prism. While it is unfortunate and condemnable, the fact remains that it is not just men of one community committing such heinous crimes. Criminals have no religion,” he said.

A spokesperson of the state police said that there have been no reports of a spurt of inter-community marriages in the state and certainly no reports of forcible marriages.

According to Hindu Samhati leaders, 10 such incidents - attacks on four of Hindu girls rejecting advances by Muslim boys and on six Hindu girls who refused to embrace Islam - were reported from Murshidabad and Malda districts over the past two months. There are a lot many more that go unreported. “Only in cases of very grievous injuries sustained by the victims (Hindu girls) or murders are such crimes reported. In most cases, the injuries sustained by the victims are not grievous and most such cases are never reported to the police. They are dealt with by these notorious ‘shalishi’ courts which, in many places, especially Muslim-dominated areas, have Muslim men as arbitrators and so the victims never get any justice. There are countless cases of such kangaroo courts having ordered Hindu girls to marry the Muslim boys who had been tormenting or abusing them and hushing up serious crimes like molestations and rapes,” said the Hindu Samhati leader.

A senior Bharatiya Janata Party office-bearer says that love jihad is an ugly reality in Bengal. “Go to any girls’ school or college in the state and you are most likely to see a number of young boys and men hanging around the gates of such institutions. Most of them would be Muslims and if you observe them closely, you will see they are very focused in approaching girls and trying to woo them. Few of them, if any, approach Muslim girls. It is the Hindu girls who are their targets. Why is that so?” he asks.

His observation is borne out by the experiences of many, including policemen. A mid-ranking officer of the Kolkata Police, while corroborating this, said: “This has become a menace now and many institutions have been making informal complaints to us”. Though it is not formally acknowledged, this is reportedly the main reason behind the Kolkata Police launching an all women patrolling squad to ensure safety of women on the city’s streets last week.

But, says the Hindu Samhati and other Hindu organisations working to prevent crimes against women, such measures cannot be enough in the face of a determined love jihad agenda. “Creating awareness among Hindu girls and families, stepping up vigilance to nip such mischief in the bud, putting in place strong deterrence to dissuade Muslim men from wooing Hindu women for the purpose of converting them to Islam and meting out exemplary punishment to the abusers can only defeat this agenda,” said Tapan Ghosh.
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