After Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Karnataka, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government on Tuesday, 17 November, announced that they will soon bring in a law against ‘love jihad’.
Since 2014, the Modi government in several of its official communication, including in its Parliament replies has denied having any definition or data on ‘love jihad’ cases. ‘Love Jihad’ is a conspiracy theory of the right-wing, which claims that Muslim men feign love to non-Muslim, especially Hindu women to make them convert to Islam with an intention to increase their population.
But where is the proof of this conspiracy? Neither the government nor the investigating agencies nor the courts have, so far, been able to substantiate the claims.
Here are some examples of all the times the government and the courts have denied having any considerable data on ‘love jihad’ cases.
NCW Says ‘No Data on Love Jihad’ Days After Chief Rekha Sharma Discusses ‘Rising Cases’
On 20 October, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women Rekha Sharma came under fire for a tweet from the official handle which said that she met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and discussed the “rising cases of love jihad” among other things.
Three weeks later, in a reply to an RTI filed by Ashoka University Professor Aniket Aga, the NCW said, “No specific data under the category of complaints related to love jihad is maintained by the NCW.”
In his RTI request, Aga has asked clearly about: “1) data pertaining to love jihad cases available with the NCW, 2) Notes/letters/memos/orders/drafts etc. sent or received by the NCW pertaining to love jihad cases and 3) File notings concerned with love jihad cases.”
He told The Quint that “The National Commission for Women is a statutory body and the Governor is a constitutional position. When Rekha Sharma officially met Bhagat Singh Koshyari on October 20, she discussed 'rise in love jihad cases' in Maharashtra, among other issues. If the NCW now claims that it has no data on love jihad cases, on what basis did its Chairperson make the claim?”
NCW sent the same response to advocate Naveen Kaushal who had filed a request on 20 October asking, “how many cases have been registered under love jihad category. And how many people have been arrested with respect to it.”
Following the NCW’s tweet of Sharma’s meeting with Koshyari, several of her controversial tweets against PM Narendra Modi and Congress were resurfaced. Sharma had claimed that her Twitter handle was hacked and filed a complaint with Twitter India for “suspicious activity” from her account.
Speaking to The Quint on 17 November, Rekha Sharma said, “That was a created controversy. I don’t want to comment on it.” When asked about the RTI reply, Sharma said, “We have said we don’t maintain a separate data on love jihad” and hung up the phone.
'Love Jihad Not Defined Under Laws’: Govt Reply in Lok Sabha
In February 2020, BJP leader and Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy told the Lok Sabha, “The term ‘Love Jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws. No such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies.”
In addition, the Minister said, “Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala High Court.”
Kanpur ‘Love Jihad’ Cases Being Probed by SITs Fall Apart
The Uttar Pradesh Police, in August 2020, formed an eight-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe alleged cases of “love jihad” in Kanpur.
A special report by the NDTV in November reveal that at least seven of the 14 cases that were being probed by the police have collapsed and the police have filed a closure report in these cases after finding that they were cases where a Hindu woman was in a consensual marriage with a Muslim man, as told to the channel by SIT in-charge Vikas Pandey.
In rest of the cases that are still being probed, NDTV has scrutinised three of them which show a similar trajectory of consensual relationship between the boy and the girl.
Where It All Began: Kerala and Karnataka
While the allegations of Muslim men trying to forcefully convert Hindu women have been there for long, the coinage of the term gained national prominence in 2009 and origins were rooted back to Kerala and the coastal belt of Karnataka.
According to the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, by October 2009, up to 4,500 girls in Kerala had been targeted, whereas Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that 30,000 girls had been converted in Karnataka alone.
Following the controversy's initial flare-up in 2009, it flared again in 2010, 2011 and 2014. On 25 June 2014, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy informed the state legislature that 2,667 young women were converted to Islam in the state since 2006. However, he stated that there was no evidence for any of them being forced conversions, and that fears of 'love jihad’ were "baseless."
Several official police investigations in both the states had found no evidence of forceful conversions and ultimately stopped the probe.
No Jihad in Hadiya’s Love: NIA
In 2018, the Supreme Court had found no evidence of ‘forceful’ conversion in Hadiya case and overruled the Kerala High Court’s judgement, which annulled her marriage. The top court had asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to continue with its investigation on the terror angle, without interfering with Hadiya’s marital status since ‘she had married her husband Shafin Jahan of her own free will.’
As a result of the Hadiya case, an NIA investigation was triggered into 11 cases of interfaith marriages in Kerala, but they closed the probe by end of 2018, stating that there has been no evidence of coercion or a larger plot in the interfaith marriages in Kerala.
BJP’s Back-and-Forth on the ‘Love Jihad’ Stance
In 2014, when the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh was asked about ‘love jihad’ cases, he had said, “ What is love jihad? I need to understand its definition.”
In an earlier article on The Quint, we had listed instances of how the BJP has been going back-and-forth on its stance on the ‘love jihad’ issue. However, with several BJP states moving to bring in laws against ‘love jihad’, it remains to be seen how the law defines the criminality of conversion in marriages and proves the alleged foul intent of Muslim men of feigning love to convert non-Muslim women, without their consent.
‘What Is Love Jihad?’ Twitter Asks After Govts Announce Laws
After the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister’s announcement, many took to Twitter to question the existence of ‘love jihad’.