By Aqib Khan
The case of a couple from Sarawa – a village in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh had a national media coverage when a Hindu woman married to a Muslim man in 2014. Though the village was in the local news again during lockdown period for communal tensions among Hindus and Muslims but in 2014 it had been a hotbed for the national level media for a coverage of the case of ‘Love Jihad’- the topic has been very useful for BJP to mobilize Hindu votes at state and national level to win elections.
It was about a girl named Sanjana Tyagi (name changed), undergraduate student with part time job of a teacher in a Madarasa belonging to Hindu minority of the village fell in love with a Muslim boy named Mustafa Ahmed (name changed) from a neighbouring village named Uldhan (Meerut, UP). As she was in an affair with a Muslim boy and living in a Muslim environment, these two factors influenced her to convert to Islam which became a hot potato and sparked the dormant issue of “Love Jihad.” The story was brought to light by mainstream media after a local Hindu organisation approached the couple and made it an issue of kidnapping, gang-rape and forcible conversion. (Kumar, 2014)
The couple eloped but as it became an issue of love jihad and police involvement they were bound to return to home. ‘The boy was arrested on charges of raping the girl after she was pressurized by her folks to file a case of rape and forced religious conversion. The Sangh Parivar and the partnered bunches took up the romantic tale of the Sanjana and Mustafa as a course reading case of “love jihad.” Yet the case took a turn three months after the fact, in October 2014, when Sanjana Tyagi went to the police claiming that she was constrained by her folks to accuse her Muslim partner of assault and transformation out of avarice for cash from a nearby BJP pioneer. She told the police that she had eloped with Mustafa out of her own will and documented a body of evidence against her folks. Therefore, Mustafa got bail in May 2015 and following the case procedure in Allahabad High Court.’ (Ali, 2015)
Currently, as the case is under process so the boy and the family are engaged in court procedures. “The couple is living together but is facing consequences for their choice to marry to a person of other religion as right wing Hindu fanatics are still trying hard to trace their location to teach them a ‘lesson’ for being deviant” said a local women from the village.
Looking at ‘Love Jihad’ from different social and criminological theories and perspectives:
Understanding the genie of ‘Love Jihad’ through a lens of social and criminological theories gives a clear picture of larger agenda of the RSS family and its allies. It is nothing but a part of the larger propaganda to stigmatize and criminalize the Muslim minority and labeling Muslims as threat to Hindu majority. Further, being savior of Hindu women is a pretext to control her agency and to hide their brahmanical and patriarchal insecurities.
These theories have generally asserted that criminal behaviour is a normal response of biologically and psychologically normal individuals to particular kinds of social circumstances.
Under functionalist school of thought, theorists looks at the society from a perspective of social harmony. The functionalist analysis of deviance begins with society as a whole rather than starting with the individual as with biological and psychological theories. Émile Durkheim, a French sociologist argued that crime is inevitable because not every member of society can be equally committed to the collective sentiments (shared values and belief or cultural norms).
In the case of love jihad, Indian society which is more or less an entity of Brahmin supremacy have clearly prescribed to its subjects that going against set cultural norms and values and married out their religion will be considered as an act of crime. Hence, committed parties are seen as the deviants of social harmony. Further, we can see such acts as the social change which initially would be considered as some form of deviance as Durkheim argues that every act of social change is initially considered as some form of deviance. Durkheim defined anomie i.e.; the loss of shared and guiding principles and norms is the outcome of an increase in crime and deviance which leads to a rise of individualism and cause to status quo break down. In the issue of love jihad as the cases of such marriages are increasing, right wing organization are taking it as the increasing of a deviant act which is breaking the social consensus between communities and increasing community individualism. This would become anomie at its higher level i.e. communities losing shared and guiding principles and norms.
According to Durkheim, public condemnation of an act makes people aware of the limits of tolerance and also unites the people or group with same ideology against the condemned. This public response to crime and deviance reinforces social solidarity and integrates society.
In the name of love jihad, some groups condemn publically, a particular act of marrying a Muslim boy with a Hindu girl which makes the people in the society aware of the issue and tolerance of act of inter-religious marriages. It might be a reality or a hoax but is nevertheless reinforced to unite the people of a particular ideology/group/religion/region in condemnation of such acts.
Whereas labeling theory argued that crime is a socially constructed category; it is time and culture-specific and therefore, there could not be any universal ‘criminal type’. It further emphasized that the societal reaction to crime and crime control mechanisms often shaped the nature and structure of crime in a society. (Raghavan, 2010) Labeling theory focuses on societal reactions to crime. The societal reaction could range from the informal response i.e.; public opinion, families or the mass media to the formal responses of police and courts. (Carrabine, 2004)
In these views of labeling theory, we can analyze cases of love jihad as socially constructed. This issue comes into light after a large informal response of public and mass media with little response from criminal justice system. A simple love marriage of a couple from two different religions is seen as being criminal and is given the name of love jihad. This is the societal reaction which attempts to preserve a particular culture and related values. Charu Gupta (The Hindu, August 28, 2014) explained the societal reactions to the issue as the pro-Hindu organizations not only claimed that forced conversions of Hindu women in the name of love are part of an international conspiracy to increase Muslim population but also argued that it is affecting Hindu numbers and causing the potential loss of child-bearing functions of Hindu women. Campaigning by Hindu organizations with these arguments created a negative image of Muslim male and labeled them as “aggressive” and “common enemy”.
The statement that Hindu women are being ‘lured’ by Muslim men seems to demonstrate them as possessing a ‘lack of character’ who are perpetually ‘lustful and ‘sexually charged’ out to violate the pure body of Hindu women. It can be seen as the large informal response from the society.
On the other hand, formal response to the issue was also given by the Karnataka High Court. ‘The Karnataka High Court in a case asked a 23-year old woman who had converted to Islam to wed a Muslim man from Kerala, to return to her folks’ home until the case was investigated. The court expressed that the case had “national implications concerning security, other than the topic of unlawful trafficking of women”. The question of national security is in this manner being stirred up with a straightforward instance of a young lady practicing a decision ensured to her under the law of the land.’ (Gupta, 2009)
Raghavan (2010) quoted Carrabine’s on labeling theory from the book ‘Criminology: A Sociological Introduction’ that “It viewed crime as a form of conflict in society, rather than as pathologies, disorganization, strains, stresses and leakage within a consensual society based on common values. It stretched the concerns of criminology away from the offender to the role of social control, sometimes at the expense of examining the causes of crime. It placed a greater emphasis on culture and cultural forms and brought in the gender aspect in crime.” (Carrabine et. al., 2004, p. 70)
If we look at cases of love jihad from the perspectives of the pro-Hindu groups than conversion and marriage of a Hindu woman with a Muslim man will consider as an act of crime which causes grave fear about breaking down of communities boundaries. As a result of this, there would be conflict in the society which shows losing social control over the cultural and social norms.
In Becker’s (1963) typology of application of labels which is known as the sequential model of deviant behavior, the case of Sanjana and Mustafa comes in a falsely accused individual’s category. ‘In this category, the person is seen by others as having committed an improper action, although he has not done so.’ (Raghavan, 2010)
Looking from the lens of late modernity and postmodernism theories which represents social, economic and cultural changes in the society and its influence on criminal justice system i.e.; the new type of crimes and the new ways to tackle it. The sociologists Henry and Milovaovic’s (1996) talked about the Constitutive criminology which is influenced by postmodernism argues that exercise of unequal power relations in society define any act as an act of crime. This power relation works in a way that one group/government/individual dominates others and practice power to deny others ability to make a difference in social norms. In the case of love jihad, a group dominating over the couple by pressurizing them and declaring their act as an act of crime even though they are doing nothing against the law of the land but violating ‘cultural norms.’ Raghavan (2010)
Last but not the least, under the risk society theory, David Garland who is Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law and professor of sociology at New York University, and professorial fellow in Criminology at Edinburgh Law School talks about two contradictory criminologies- criminology of self and criminology of the other. He said in criminology of the others, crime is seen as an uncommon behavior and defined criminals as a threat considering the dangerous member from a distinct racial or social group, having little similarities to surrounded people. This led to forming crime control measures in the society, focusing on surveillance and harsh punitive way of crime control. (Raghavan, 2010)
If we analyze the issue of love jihad and its impact in the context of Garland’s criminology of others, the criminals can be compared with the minority group (Muslims) who are seen by the pro RSS majority (Hindu) as the threat to their demographical existence. As a result of this, majority and their takers in state use this issue like others as an instrument of the surveillance and dissonant reaction to maintain their majority and hegemony in the society.
The cases of love jihad can be envisaged into many theories and intricate outcomes can be drawn from them. Let the concept be a deviance from social norm as highlighted by Durkheim or is socially constructed, viz a viz labeling theory. Which theory holds well? For the sake of argument, firstly, one can say that the eloping tendencies after cross religion intimacies are justifiied by the Hindu fanatics as a way to convert Hindu women to Islam to increase the Muslim populace. If this were to be true, then it is quite contrary to norms and values of Islam. As basics of Islam preaches that an act by a believer in Islam can’t be based on cheating and dishonesty. If it is so then it will be considered a bad deed or sin but not a virtue or service to Islam. This act will be taken as deviance against Islamic principles.
Secondly, Census 2011 indicates clearly that growth rate of Muslims in comparison to Hindus has a sharp fall and the momentum of population increment among Muslims was high where the majority of couples hailed from Muslim community. Now, how far the argument on part of media and Sangh holds true, whereby majority accuse love jihad to be a political instrument to raise funds and gain financial supports on part of Muslims to increase their population?
Thirdly, in the context of labeling and risk society theory in criminology domain, Hindu majority has created a false social fabrication to stigmatize the Muslim minority and labeling the Muslim youth as an imperilment to Hindu women. Further, love jihad is seen as an apprehension to the Hindu culture, which is a social construction in toto. If this were to be true, then the justifications used by majority holds good only for the cases of Muslim male marrying a Hindu female. These justification falls flat against the cases, where a Muslim female marries a Hindu male. How far this new social construction called ‘Love Jihad’ holds legitimacy against Muslims?
- Carrabine, E. (2004). Criminology: A sociological introduction. London: Routledge.
- Raghavan, V. (2010). ‘Youth Arrested in Extortion Cases in Mumbai City: Processes of Entry and After [Ph.D. thesis]. pp. 75-94