Mainstream, VOL LII, No 45, November 1, 2014
Neither Love Nor Jihad: The Politics of Hate-Mongering
Sunday 2 November 2014
by Navneet Sharma, Harikrishnan B. and Pradeep Nair
Love Jihad would literally mean the ‘war for love’ but is understood more symbolically as a war cry for the spread and propagation of a particular religion wherein Muslim men entice or deceit Hindu women into their love and marriage thereby forcing them for conversion to Islam; thus, a conspiracy to rob the honour of Hindus and raise the number of Muslims.
Love Jihad as a social reality is either denied for its existence or feared for its sheer ferocity by fundamentalist Hindus. The electoral process adds more fuel to speculation. In this commentary we attempt to analyse this social phenomenon at the conceptual level and bust the myth of love jihad. This may contribute to our understanding that rumour and politics of hate-mongering benefit a typical kind of politics akin to rumours like Ganesha drinking milk or the pervasiveness of the monkey-man helping vested political interests of the ideologically driven Hindu-based party.
As the latest Indian contribution to English [?] language and contemporary political glossary for Right-wing forces in the country, love Jihad seems to work well in the field, despite a poll debacle. Though hate-mongering in a similar vein has been practised by similar forces time and again in history, this seems to be the first instance of coining a new word for the purpose. ‘Love jihad’, as a word, started doing the rounds around 2007 in Gujarat and later surfaced in court orders and police investigation reports in the South Indian States of Kerala and Karnataka around 2009-10. However, to the utter dismay of those who gave birth to the term and propagated it, lexicographers world over have failed to take note of this wonderful oxymoron.
‘Love Jihad’, despite its existence on and off the mainstream discourse for over five years, is yet to find its way into any of the online editions of standard dictionaries, let alone their hard-copy counterparts. It has not even surfaced in collaborative dictionary projects like Wiki-tionary or Urban Dictionary either. May be those who are desperately trying to legitimise the existence of this new seed of hate politics may consider this as the next item in their ‘to do’ list.
Comprehending the meaning of love Jihad, thus turns out to be a challenging task, because ‘love’, as it is presently used in English, may have at least 11 implications and 18 sub-implications for its noun and seven senses and eight sub-senses for its verb form, according to professional lexicographers. Oxford Dictionary defines it as an “intense feeling of deep affection or fondness for a person or thing; great liking or sexual passion”. ‘Love’ can also be a beloved; a sweet-heart (often as a form of address). Now, to explicate the second term—jihad. The online version of Oxford Dictionary, defines it [as noun], simplifying “a war or struggle (Among Muslims) against unbelievers”. Online edition of the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines it as a “holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty”.
Trying to make sense out of these individual meanings, love Jihad appears to be a holy war waged for love. Indeed, a relief for the conflict-torn world, since waging a religiously holy war for love will be the befitting path to peace. But this misnomer, in its usage, seems not to connote the sanatani adage ‘lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu’ line. Those who coined it have twisted the seemingly apparent denotation of the word to fit their bill. Thus love Jihad as a word, though sounds like Jihad for love, actually denotes love for jihad, as it is used in political propaganda, official documents, news coverage and in mainstream discourse.
This again, is riddled with contrasts. Jihad, a word of Arabic origin known to be used in English from 1869, defined by dictionaries and religious texts as a holy war waged against non-believers [though there are different inter-pretations for the word, including it being a spiritual battle within oneself], does not go well with the idea of loving somebody—the non-believer, the enemy—as part of waging it. In fact, among the many types of wars waged in the history of mankind, not a single one has love as the rule of engaging the enemy. This is the point where the misnomer turns to be an oxymoron.
However, there are some reasons for this heady cocktail of contrasting words to work well, especially in the Indian context. Both the words, Jihad (globally post-9/11) and love (in India forever), have always been dealt with caution, looked at with suspicion and were linked to ideas that try to topple established, accepted social norms. Jihad—though the idea existed earlier—surged into the mainstream discourse across the world post-9/11, and was developed as a binary opposite to legitimise the war on terror, globally. ‘Love’, on the other hand, has been a term and an idea which has always raised serious threats against the norms of the institutionalised religious-caste systems and the overall patriarchal societal system in India. Thus the love felt by two individuals belonging to different castes, religion or even gotras, often takes the form of mutiny, war, revolution, and dissident voice against the religious, caste, patriarchal norms which restrict and often rule out the right to choice for men and to a greater extent for women.
This very love, which enables a woman to exercise her right of choice, no more exists just as love, but as a larger transgression of patriarchal norms, which is responded with brutal violence, (dis-) honour killings and excommunication. Thus, any dissident voice, or even a thought of raising it itself is depicted as a romantic affair- something which is not real, well-thought-out or long-lasting. So the love jihad/(dis-)honour killing exponents decree that these women are not taking a decision, but are rather lured or enticed into it as part of a larger scheme to ‘impurify’ the race.
Thus when you mix two words that are dreaded by the patriarchy-ridden religious and caste system, it gets a mass appeal across and beyond the intended audience. This is evident from how church authorities in Kerala, and Sikh religious authorities in North India joined the tirade, claiming that they are also victims of love jihad. Thus, love jihad, as a word, is not Jihad for love but it is more about the institutionalised religion’s fear of love, especially women’s love, as a transgressing power which breaks the patriarchal norms, thus resulting in losing our women. When this existing fear is coupled with the fears of another religion gaining dominance, the cocktail certainly works better.
The gendering of caste and religion are the social processes upon which these institutions not only survive but resuscitate the interest of the modern and educated into these institutions of stratification and belief. The controversy or the attack on Hinduism and the robbing of the honour of the Hindus by taking away their women reflects only upon the state of incapacitated mind of Hindu women wherein they get enticed or lured by the mlecchas. Women are denied the possibility of their independent thought, rationality and choice vis-a-vis whom to love, or sleep with. It is like taking or re-claiming control over sexuality and preferences made by Hindu women.
Any and every fundamentalist fanaticism of religion, caste or nationalism hounds women. Moreover, it is the ‘patriarchal’ approach to the concerns whereby if there is an inter-religious marriage, it is the woman who converts to the religion of the man in the house. How about a love Jihad where women entice and lure the men of other religion for conversion and thus the strengthening of the religion.
The issue of love Jihad again works for the subjugation of women. They are seen and are treated as property/objects. A respected Member of Parliament thus proclaimed: “If they (Muslims!) take away our ten women, we will bring their hundreds.” This only reflects that the Prime Minister may revel into the championing of Mangal-yatra, his party cronies and henchmen still perceive that women are for giving birth to brave fellow-men or it might have shifted to giving birth to intelligent indigenous scientist men. This is only to deny subjectivity, dignity, personhood or the idea of self to women.
In the above context, it is inane to assert that women, and Hindu women in particular, are mere pawns in the ideology-driven game of the religion-based political party. It is an attempt to instil hate for Muslims by loud gimmicks that they (Muslims) are taking away or robbing the honour of Hindus via women. This Hindu-based gang and so-called cultural organisation has earlier contributed to the other pogroms of religious conflicts also whether it was by burning Graham Staines and his kids alive or about the Hinduisation of Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists by claiming that their gods are mere re-incarnation of the Hindu Vedic Gods.
The pride of being a Hindu or the pugnacious hate for non-believers in Vedic Hinduism either by Dalits, Christians, Muslims or other minorities consolidate as a vote-bank. This vote-bank is the ‘most’ neglected by the other secular political parties or democracy praxis in India. This is what constitutes the RSS’ agenda and catchment.
Hate, like love, is socially and culturally constructed and is thus historically situated. Loving or hating invariably involve an object or a person, and therefore, a relationship with something or someone. The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS in their very origin were anti-minority. However, there is now the realisation that this plank can get converted into votes, or if applied ‘tacitly’—as in the recent elections—can increase the winability of more numbers of parliamentary seats. Madan Mohan Malaviya, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar and Keshav Baliram Hedgewar never shied away from their pro-caste, pro-Hindu, and anti-women, anti-Muslim stance. This historically perpetuated hate had almost blamed Muslims and their attack on Hindustan as the reason for all the ills that India that is Bharat faces today. This kind of politics and history survives only when there are wedges and if there are none they are invented like between Patel and Nehru regarding the issue of ban on the RSS—following Gandhi’s assassi-nation. So, owing up Patel as an iconic hero befits as an anti-thesis to the non-secular imagery of contemporary India.
Love Jihad is another wedge which is being crafted by Hindu fanatics to spread hate towards Muslims. This wedge would split not only the society but the idea of being women also. Women across religions are secondary citizens but are the carrier of values, ethics and religion, and this makes their situation more precarious and vulnerable. Any war, riot and conflict targets and trades women and minorities as property and spoils of the contest only.
The new shrill cry for jingoistic Hindu nationalism has taken both women and Muslims by their neck. Love jihad, true to its meaning, would have benefited women and Muslims but the constructed meaning and rumour will only contribute more to the marginalisation of people already on the margins. Love Jihad could have been saakhi of Kabir but it has become a war-cry of Yogi Adityanath. Love may not yield much but hate-mongering definitely yields a vote-bank.
Navneet Sharma, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh; Harikrishnan B. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Writing, Central University of Himachal Pradesh; and DrPradeep Nair, Ph.D, is an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Mass Communication and Electronic Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh.