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Deception: A New Terminology for Love Marriages

History holds in its womb true stories of love. A love worth dying for, whether one looks at Heer and Ranjha or Anarkali and Salem they showed the true spirit of love. But in the modern world, concepts have taken a different turn. People fall in love not to die for each other but rather to be able to start a life together. To live and let live.

This is not exactly acceptable in the society that we live in currently. The Indian society in its journey has taken more than a step back in terms of following democratic principles. It has once again grabbed hold of one religion as the basis for ruling the country.

Where the dominant religion helped threaten the minority by way of politics, in a change of events the majority feels threatened by the rise of the minority religions population. What exactly is it threatened by? The rising population of the Muslim community who apparently are trying to convert Hindu women to Islam by the pretext of love.

The phrase 'love jihad' was coined in 2009, when a Bishop made claims that Catholic girls were being lured into marriage by Muslim boys in Kerala, without any substantial evidence. It then gained currency in the State of Karnataka as well. But all the claims of Love Jihad made by both these states were statistically proven to be false and misleading.

The concept of Love Jihad gained momentum on the basis of cases having no substantial angle of forceful conversion or deception. In the case of Silija Raj and Asgar Nazar from Karnataka, the couple had gotten married of their own free will but their case was termed as Love Jihad. On further investigation, it was revealed that there was no conspiracy to convert Hindu women to embrace Islam. The Kerala Police had declared that the concept of Love Jihad is a campaign with no substance.

The On-going Scenario
Most of the claims made were false. Tales were spread of abducted Hindu women being converted and were portrayed as an act of unholiness and mortification. All the while evading the fact that these women ever possessed the capability of making decisions on their own or were incapable of understanding the world around them. Time and again through the various efforts of proving the existence of Love Jihad, the propagandists have established the fact that women are na�ve and need to be sheltered by the men of the house. She is not to be exposed to the outside world and has to be kept under a watchful eye for her safety.

This message helps spread the patriarchal virus which took years of efforts to be diminished in number. With time, politicians started getting involved and actively professed its principles. In doing so, they dictated the "do's and do not's" for Hindu women and their parents. It involved statements such as not allowing them to wear a headscarf as it becomes difficult to recognise them when sitting behind a two�wheeler, checking their mobile phones etc.

The Muslim religion was dragged all along and its followers were termed "monstrous". When one looks close enough it becomes evident that the entire phrase has a political agenda to it. The concept was introduced to polarise voters and inculcate fear in the minds of parents so that women would be in control again.

Shift of Focus
The only manipulation taking place is in the name of religion with a political motive. The concept of secularism is hindered and people have been brainwashed. The entire focus is shifted from "Crime against Women" to blaming a specific religion. Hindu right-wing organisations have managed to convince parents to term runaways as forceful or part of a hidden agenda so as to save their honour and escape the brutality of the society they reside in. The focus has shifted from crimes committed by men against women to specifically targeting Muslim men, thus avoiding any liability to be undertaken by Hindu men.

The rising crimes against woman are being exploited by right-wing organisations to suit their circumstances. Rather than acknowledging these crimes and taking stringent actions and proper measures to safeguard women, it is being used to eliminate religious freedom and gather votes.

Parents on the other hand want to have full control of their child's lives especially when it comes to girls. Indian parents have forever attached their respect and honour to their girl child, thus when news breaks out that she has run away with a person belonging to a different religion they feel disgraced. They want their child to live life according to the terms dictated by the parents, of which the most important condition is to marry according to their will.

Organisations have used this fear and disgrace to demonise an entire religious community, gather votes and re-ignite the patriarchal mindset. In most of the cases filed the victim (girl) has confessed that the act was out of their own free � will despite parents pressurising them to say otherwise. In most cases, the need to run away arises for women so as to witness the outside world, be with someone who understands them, find a job of their choice or simply be able to exercise their own free will and no longer be subjugated by the family.

Targeting the minority
Another reason for blaming the Muslim community and demeaning them is their food habits. Non- Vegetarianism, particularly beef eating is said to give rise to dark and lustful thoughts. Cows are a sacred symbol of life and thus meat sourced from cows is forbidden in Hinduism. But there is no scientific claim that eating Beef can cause the uprising of such thinking. Thus, this claim stands baseless. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) used the eating habits of Muslims to stigmatise them as a violent group, outlaw beef, and further marginalise Muslims in India. In this country, cows are offered protection but not minorities.

India has often talked about secularism but has never been true to it in practice. Prime examples would be the religious practices in educational institutions starting with the chanting of "Om" in the morning assembly, the diya lighting ceremony to ward off the darkness of ignorance and welcoming wisdom through Goddess Rajeshwari accompanied by Gayatri Mantra (a part of Rig Veda). When children of the minority group were made to sing the National Song Vande Mataram which involves Goddesses Durga, Laxmi and Saraswati it was all part of promoting the National Spirit and one was to not question it.

The hypocrisy entailed here is immense. When the minority practices its religion it is construed as "too religious" and paving a way to diminish the strength of the dominant religion. But when the majority calls upon practising and promoting their religion, it is suddenly an act of nationalism and true "Indian" spirit.

It was never a debate when a child wore a tikka to an educational institution. It was then termed as the freedom to practice one's faith. But when a Muslim child wears a hijab to the same institution, it is a violation of the school's code of conduct and propagates the Muslim religion with no values of nationalism. The majority were never accused of manipulating or forcefully making children follow a certain practice.

Violation of a Fundamental Right
Lovers are separated due to religious differences and family or societal pressures. Instead of providing a safe and mature environment for the cultivation of love, society threatens such emotions and joins hands for its failure. In some cases, the lovers are killed in the name of honour or forcefully married off to someone belonging to the same religion.

Couples resort to conversion due to the intricacies of the Special Marriage Act. The object is to get married as soon as possible so as to be safe and independent. The Special Marriage Act allows marriage only after a month's notice to the authorities along with personal details. This instils fear in the minds of the lovers that the parents might intervene by the time the procedures are complied with.

The campaigning against interfaith marriages has now taken the form of a Law, namely Anti�conversion law and prohibition of unlawful religious conversion ordinances. These laws hamper the very fundamentals of the Constitution.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes the right to marry a person of one's own choice. It is a fundamental right the violation of which is a legal wrong and is to be punished. Society has no role in determining the partner one is to marry. But the present situation in India is heading towards the objective of influencing life-changing decisions in an individual's life and giving hate speeches.

In the case of Shafin Jahan, it was alleged that Hadiya was deceived into marrying her husband Mr. Shafin Jahan and forcibly converted to Islam. The Supreme Court found that the allegation, which was made by her parents, was clearly false.

In another case, Shakti Vahini v. Union of India & Ors. The court held that adults had the right to marry persons of their choice and this right cannot be interfered with by parents, communities, Khap panchayats or the authorities.

Many couples resort to safe houses which are very few across India, to escape from their families. One such safe house is Dhanak for Humanity, wherein 52% of the couples are Hindu women who intend to wed Muslim men, and 42% of the couples are Muslim women who intend to wed Hindu men.

Through the establishment of such acts or laws, harm is caused not only to the minority religion but followers of the dominant religion in itself as it finds a base to establish a caste and patriarchal system. In simple terms allowing right-wing organisations to take such liberties and go to adverse extents to demonise another religion is an invitation to the dormant evils of Hinduism.

When one looks deep within through a magnified glass the true meaning of secularism in today's India, is not whether secularism can tolerate all religions but rather the question of which religion is secular. The religion of the dominant is "Indian" but that of the minority is a threat of terrorism.

The extent to which these organisations could go is unimaginable. Thus, any details of cases in the limelight are difficult to believe in. One cannot differ the true and false details, the exaggerated and important facts. There are absolutely no statistics, data or evidence proving the existence of love jihad or any international organisation providing funding for carrying out Love Jihad.

Political leaders and organisations need to draw a line when making statements that incriminate another religion and categorise it as hate speech. They need to maintain focus on the increasing crime against women and not devise plans to polarize voters. The principles and values of Secularism are to be upheld at all times and no law that violates such principles should be introduced. Crimes have no religion. A wrong is a wrong no matter what religion the perpetrator belongs to.

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