‘Operation Juliet’: Disclosing the bogey that is ‘Love Jihad’

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48_07_48_15_Cobra-PostA yearlong investigation titled ‘Operation Juliet’, conducted by Cobrapost and Gulail, has revealed appalling details about how certain members of the BJP, along with members of the right-wing extremist groups, namely the RSS, VHP, and other splinter groups, blatantly promulgate communal disharmony, and instilled hate against Muslims, in states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, and Kerala. They do so under the pretext of saving Hindu women from Muslim men, by dissuading them from marrying Muslim boys, using coercive methods.

The recently released sting operation sheds light on the bogey of ‘Love Jihad’ that has been grabbing headlines since the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots.

While investigating, the Cobrapost and Gulail team met several right-wing leaders, recording their statements on the concept of ‘love jihad’ – which calls for saving Hindu women who have supposedly been duped by Muslim men. This so-called ‘Hindutva brigade’ revealed what they believe is a movement undertaken by the Muslim communities in states like UP, Karnataka, Kerala, and Haryana.

According to Cobrapost, the Hindutva brigade, clubbing the entire Muslim community under the umbrella of gross stereotypes, believes that ‘the most good looking’ Muslim boys, from families consisting of 8 – 10 children, are given Hindu names like ‘Sonu, Monu’, are taught to pretend to be Hindus. These boys are trained by maulvis, under a controlled system, to lure Hindu girls by parking themselves on their motorcycles, outside schools and colleges. Women, as they are easy to deceive and convince, fall into their traps before they are able to realise that the alleged men are in fact Muslims, and not Hindus, said Sanjeev Balyan, BJP Lok Sabha member from Muzaffarnagar.

The investigating team of reporters, recorded statements from several leaders, like, BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan in Uttar Pradesh, Suresh Rana; BJP MP from Kairana in UP, Hukum Singh; BJP MLA from Sardhana, Sangeet Som; BJP’s district level leader in Muzaffarnagar Sanjay Agarwal; Umesh Mallik; ShrikarPrabhu, Karnataka BJP’s executive member who has since been expelled from the party; BJP MLC from Mangalore, Captain Ganesh Karnik; RSS leader Omkar Singh in Muzaffarnagar; LalitMaheshwari, VHP’s Muzaffarnagar unit head; JagdishShenava, advocate and VHP’s Mangalore district president; VHP worker Hari Shiv Prasad; Shiv Kumar Sharma, the founder of Krishna Sena, a religious organization; and the chief of Hindu Unity Forum Ravish Tantri.

As stated by Cobrapost, the highlights of the operation reveal, that, the so-called ‘ Hindutva brigade, to rescue Hindu women – who have been termed as victims of ‘love jihad’ – use force to compel women to end their existing marriages or courtships with Muslim men; they are instead forced to marry Hindu men, chosen by the brigade workers. Some are convinced by the use of force, and some by the means of emotional blackmail. The brigade allegedly also files fake kidnapping, and rape cases to frame Muslim men, along with producing fake documents which suggest that the women in question are minors, making it easier to implicate Muslim men.

They also run counselling centers and helplines to ‘brainwash’ Hindu women who have chosen to marry outside of their community. These centers hold sessions where brigade workers put forward a poor depiction of the Muslim men in question, their families, and their religious beliefs. For women who refuse to budge, they are known to administer drugs that induce temporary amnesia, in order to rescue the said victims of ‘love jihad’.

To further their cause on a larger scale, amongst the Hindu community, they distribute inflammatory pamphlets, and books, in order to entice hatred.

Furthermore, the brigade creates pressure on the administration, holding them back from carrying out their duties. They also discourage people from approaching the authorities, as they believe doing so will weaken them, subsequently leading them to compromise on their beliefs.

This ‘love jihad’ bogey, as it has been termed, is characteristic of the current socio-political scenario in the country; an air of communal dysfunctionality that seems to be thickening, by the minute. Released at a time when the ‘Dadri lynching’ incident has taken the front seat in the theatre of communal politics, ‘Operation Juliet’, quite simply indicates, that the scales of the religious discourse in the country, are leaning towards one extreme of the spectrum – patriarchy and misogyny, openly advertised under the banner of religious extremism.

While the Dadri lynching is indicative of a new form of extremism –the freedom of choice to eat, being governed by extreme religious dogma; Operation Juliet, on the other hand, paints a tragic picture, of the painful state of living under the shadow of a religiously fueled patriarchal discourse.

Although this discourse is not new, or out of the ordinary, with news of sexual assaults, and honour killings flooding not only the society but also the mainstream media like an epidemic, the ugly face of religious patriarchal extremism that has surfaced post the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case, only seems to be taking a turn for the worst.

Open admissions of using coercive means to control women’s choices are being justified with the claim that women apparently cannot think for themselves; they need guidance, and this where the Hindutva brigade steps in, taking the moral high ground, teaching the non-conformist, and misguided victims of ‘love jihad’ a lesson or maybe even two.

Do women, then, really need saving? The answer is, no.

The contention eventually boils down to a matter of accepting an individual’s freedom of choice, and their ability to distinguish the grey, from the black and the white.

The complication however, without a single doubt, arises because the society within which we exist, is heavily dominated by discourses that are a product of long standing rules, regulations, codes, and conventions, of a dominant patriarchal order. This plain, but powerful truth, then, pits men and women against each other. They are no longer two sides of the same coin, but coins of different denominations. Add religion to the mix, and you get a range of different currencies.

From faking documents, and FIRs, to ‘brainwashing’ women into believing that Muslims are out on a mission to convert them by luring them into romantic relationships, are a result of the idea that women are mentally unfit to make use of their grey matter. They stem from the absurd claims that range from ‘western wear’ being ‘anti-Indian’, thus generating curiosity within the male psyche, subsequently leading to sexual assaults, to mobile phones being a leading cause of rape; it eventually boils down to how women, in general, are incapable of either making ‘morally right choices’ or ‘protecting’ themselves from ‘social evils’.

Would these saviors, then, be willing to accept women as rational individuals?

Quite frankly, Operation Juliet lays bare the beginnings of a grim future; one where freedom is curtailed, thoughts are controlled, and decisions made for you.

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