What is love jihad in India

Love jihad? Radical Hindus stir up hatred in India

The poor-looking village of Sarawa is located on a muddy road, somewhere between sugar cane fields in Uttar Pradesh in northern India. So far it has been a sleepy place where Hindus and Muslims have lived well together for decades. But for a few months now the village has been a source of unrest, and deep rifts have opened up between the religious communities.

Radical Hindus say that there is an exemplary case of love jihad in Sarawa. They mean that Muslim men deliberately seduce Hindu women, marry them and then exert pressure until they convert to Islam. The campaign, so the allegation, is causing the number of Hindus in India to decline. Hindus make up the clear majority in India; about 180 million people out of 1,250 million Indians are Muslims.

The 20-year-old at the center of the controversy in Sarawa tells the story like this: "I was dragged to various madrasas (Islamic schools) and there sexually attacked, tortured and made a Muslim." She has been promised a place in heaven if she converts, says the young woman as she sits in the courtyard of her house and flies flies away in the searing heat. But when she found out that she was going to be married to a man in the Middle East, she fled.

That was a few weeks ago. That weekend, the young woman went to the police and said her testimony was false. She loved the man, and her family urged her to make the statement - probably because she did not approve of the relationship. Since then the woman has disappeared. Your father is furious. "She was threatened and brainwashed," he says. Everything is a big conspiracy.

Despite the unexplained state of affairs, the ruling BJP party and its affiliated right-wing organizations pounced on the case. This approach has a system, says Atul Sharma, head of the women's and children's rights organization Sankalp in Uttar Pradesh. "The right picks out individual cases of suspected fraud and misogyny and gives them a religious touch," she says. "This is done in order to get the votes of as many Hindus as possible in elections."

And there are enough elections in a huge democracy. Regional elections were only held in two states on Wednesday. Like Sharma, many policy watchers note that hardliners have more leeway before the votes since the central government is led by the Hindu nationalist BJP with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "This is intended to establish a dominance of the Hindus," fears Jasim Mohammad from the Forum for Muslim Studies and Analyzes.

Women's rights activist Rehana Adeeb also believes that the so-called love jihad is part of a larger campaign. The right not only fought against interreligious marriages and issued leaflets warning against dating Muslims, but also excluded Muslims from dancing, for example. Groups with names like "Ghar Wapsi" (homecoming) tried to turn people who had converted to Christianity or Islam back into Hindus.

One of these organizations is the World Hindu Council. Balraj Dungar, a member, travels the country for the Vishva Hindu Parishad holding "awareness campaigns". After Hindu women converted to Islam, the men would father half a dozen children with them, he said recently in Meerut, not far from the village of Sarawa. "When the Muslims are in the majority, they will rule over us."

Such incitement turns into violence again and again. A year ago, attacks on Muslims in Muzaffarnagar killed more than 60 people and 40,000 people had to flee their homes. Many, like twelve-year-old Munawwar Malik, also lost friends at the time. The members of the religious communities have since avoided each other. "We used to have parties and play cricket together," he says. "Not anymore. Now we play on different fields."