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'The Fault in Our Investigation?': How VHP's 'Love Jihad' Cases Exposes Them Too

VHP's 'list' was simply a catalogue of 147 media reports quite likely the outcome of a Google search.

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Hindi Female

(Extracted with permission from 'Love Jihad And Other Fictions: Simple Facts To Counter Viral Falsehoods' by journalists Sreenivasan Jain, Mariyam Alavi and Supriya Sharma, published by Aleph Publishing Company. Paragraph breaks have been added for readers’ convenience).

CLAIM: 'Love jihad' is real because...the VHP has compiled a list of cases.

High-profile cases talked up as 'love jihad' don't add up. But what if there are lesser-known cases that have escaped public attention?

To find out, we contacted four social media accounts almost entirely devoted to pushing the 'love jihad' narrative. This included the Facebook page 'Girls Beware of Love Jihad', with 27,000 followers; 'India Against Love Jihad' with 7500 followers; 'Hindu against love jihad', with 4,100 followers; and 'Protest Love Jihad', with over 4,000 followers.

Two accounts replied. The somewhat garbled response from 'Hindu against love jihad' is reproduced verbatim.

VHP's 'list' was simply a catalogue of 147 media reports quite likely the outcome of a Google search.

The response from one of the accounts.

(Photo: Excerpt from the book)

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'Don't Know Love Jihad's Definition'

Additionally, we contacted mainstream Hindutva organizations that promote the 'love jihad' theory, such as the RSS and the VHP.

We asked VHP spokesperson Alok Kumar if he could define 'love jihad.'

"I don't know if there is a very precise definition," Kumar admitted, with a laugh.

"I do not dispute that two adult persons have the right to marry as they like. But there are cases where the consent of the girl is obtained by deception," he said.

A deception includes the concealment of religion by the boy, wearing Hindu things like the tilak or the kalawa (thread tied around the wrist), conveying that he is a Hindu, befriending the Hindu girl and marrying her. That may be what is broadly called "love jihad."
VHP's 'list' was simply a catalogue of 147 media reports quite likely the outcome of a Google search.

A post from one of the pages devoted to pushing the 'love jihad' narrative.

(Photo: Excerpt from the book)

No Data to Back the Claims

In September 2020, while launching a special edition of the VHP's in-house magazine, entirely devoted to 'love jihad', Kumar had described this strategy as 'demographic invasion' by Muslims to reduce Hindus to a minority. We asked him:

Does he have proof of this conspiracy? Numbers to back up the claim?

Kumar said he didn't have any numbers off the top of his head, but pointed us to the special edition, which featured a list of 'love jihad' cases.

The magazine, which we received in PDF form, was laced with deeply Islamophobic imagery and language.

Regardless, as the only comprehensive documentation of the 'love jihad' phenomenon collated by a recognized organization, we examined it in detail.

Very quickly, it became clear that the VHP had not carried out any independent investigation. Their list was simply a catalogue of 147 media reports quite likely the outcome of a Google search.

The earliest entry was from November 2011 and the last from September 2020, the date of the magazine's publication.

On closer analysis, seventy-three or almost half of all entries were invalid.

They were either dead links, repetitions, instances not related to India, links to statements by politicians and public figures, commentary pieces on 'love jihad,' or articles that carried their own lists of so-called 'love jihad' cases. The list also skipped serial numbers-for example, jumping from entry 8 to entry 10.
VHP's 'list' was simply a catalogue of 147 media reports quite likely the outcome of a Google search.

A page from VHP's in-house magazine.

(Photo: Excerpt from the book)

Then, What Is Getting the 'Love Jihad' Tag?

That left us with seventy-four unique cases in a span of nine years. Looking through them, we found that the 'love jihad' tag had been applied to a wide spectrum of gender related crimes, across twenty-five categories: fraud, blackmail, related on abandonment, intimidation, dowry demands, rape, murder, and so on.

The only common feature in these cases was that the accused was a Muslim man, the alleged victim a Hindu woman. As we had explained before, it is illogical to argue that such crimes are part of a 'love jihad' conspiracy, if the aim is to seduce and convert Hindu women.

In only two categories did religious identity have a role to play: Muslims hiding their name to dupe Hindu women into marrying them (Kumar's definition of 'love jihad'), and instances of forcible conversion to Islam.

The VHP list catalogued thirty-six allegations of the concealment of religious identity by Muslim men from their Hindu partners.

Let us pause for a moment to consider that number-only thirty-six cases of alleged identity deception over a nine-year period as proof of a conspiracy to alter the religious demography of a country of 1.3 billion people.

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None of the thirty-six articles provided any independent proof-say, the outcome of an official investigation to explain why a particular allegation of individual wrongdoing amounted to a larger Muslim conspiracy.

A simple Google search shows tricksters of all religious stripes exist. For instance, in February 2022, police arrested Ramesh Chandra Swain from Odisha's Kendrapara district, accused of marrying eighteen times by faking his identity.

Some of the cases of identity fraud in the VHP list did not even seem to be outright con jobs.

For example, the list featured an OpIndia article from June 2019, in which the publication assigned, without any supporting proof, the 'love jihad' label to the case of a Muslim man who allegedly faked a Brahmin identity and married a Brahmin woman from Rajasthan.

The man was arrested following a complaint by the father of the woman. An article in The Times of India on the same case quoted the police as saying the couple are adults, and there is little the police could do. The report cited a video released by the woman saying she was aware of her partner's religious identity and that their marriage was consensual.

Cherry-Picking & Twisting of Facts

OpIndia was the single largest contributor to the VHP's list, with thirty-five articles. It is a pro-Hindutva website repeatedly found carrying misinformation.

The list also relied on seven entries from the obscure website Hinduexistence.org, where the claims took an even more scurrilous turn.

For instance, a Hinduexistence piece from June 2017 on the VHP list used the term 'Love Jihad plot' to describe the murder of a twenty-three-year-old Hindu woman from Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.

She was reportedly stabbed to death by her Muslim suitor when she rejected his proposal. No evidence is provided of a Muslim conspiracy other than the fantastical allegation that the murder was the result of the rise of testosterone...due to regular beef eating at the time of (Ramadan) fasting, creating abnormal sexual advances including sex insanity leading to rape and murder.

The VHP list also relies on mainstream media reports-but uses some of them in a misleading way.

For instance, in February 2020, Dainik Jagran, one of India's largest selling Hindi dailies, reported that a Hindu woman had eloped with her Muslim lover in a town in Jharkhand, and her family had labelled it a case of 'love jihad.' The headline of the report used the term 'love story.' And yet, it landed up on the VHP list.

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CONCLUSION: The VHP list offers no evidence of a Muslim conspiracy. Instead, from the wide catchment of gender-related crimes in India, the VHP and its media allies have cherry-picked disconnected instances of accusations of violence, fraud, or misogynistic behaviour by Muslim men towards their Hindu female partners and sought to pass it off as 'love jihad.'

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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