On Saturday, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel pointed out that family members of several BJP leaders have opted for inter-religion marriages, and asked whether they come under love jihad
NEW DELHI — A couple of days ago, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shahnawaz Hussain while campaigning in Srinagar for local bodies election was asked by a reporter whether his marriage with his wife who came from a Hindu family was a case of love jihad.
Hussain laughed it off, a video viral on social media shows.
The reporter’s question was in the context of the debate triggered by recent announcements by several BJP-ruled states that they would enact laws against love jihad— a bogey invented by the Hindutva parties to allege that Muslim men entice Hindu women into marriage for converting them to Islam.
First, it was the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh (MP) which said it would draft a law against love jihad. Then, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh made similar announcements. Several states, including MP, already have laws against forced conversions.
Critics have slammed the BJP leaders for harping on love jihad and the announcements of banning inter-faith marriages. They say such laws will criminalise choice—the liberty of the citizens to choose their life partner.
On Friday, Rajasthan’s Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot slammed BJP, saying the party was using love jihad “to divide the nation and curb individual rights of citizens”.
Some others have pointed out the hypocrisy of the saffron party as they argue that several BJP leaders have married women from other religions.
On Saturday, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel pointed out that family members of several BJP leaders have opted for inter-religion marriages, and asked whether they come under love jihad.
Shahnawaz Hussain is a good case in point. He married Renu Sharma in 1994. It was a love marriage. Renu’s family had objected to their marriage and it was firebrand BJP leader Uma Bharti who suggested a way for the couple to navigate the family hurdle: go abroad.
It was a court marriage and it was only after the birth of their child that the two families gave up their intransigence.
In an interview for the Week in 2018, Husain was asked about love jihad. This is what he had to say: “No third person has any right to intervene between two people who are in love. What has religion got to do with love?”
Last year in February, the niece of a BJP national general secretary Ram Lal married the son of Congress leader Surheeta Kareem in Lucknow.
According to the media reports from that day, the wedding ceremony was attended by top BJP leaders, including Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, UP Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma, and ministers Suresh Khanna and Nand Gopal Nandi.
The leaders bestowed the inter-faith couple with wishes and blessings.
Expelled BJP leader I.P. Singh had tweeted, “Senior leaders of our party spread Hindutva knowledge in the world and say that there is a threat from Islam. And they are able to take care of their sisters and daughters. They elope with Muslims. This will not be called love jihad since it’s their family matter…”
Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad had asked the RSS to “let people live with love in the same way.”
No different is the story of Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. He has been married to Seema since 1983. The couple had to face a lot of difficulties in convincing their families for marriage given that Seema comes from a Hindu family.
BJP leader Najma Heptulla’s daughter is married to a Hindu. Similarly, controversial BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who frequently has a dig at Indian Muslims has his daughter Suhasini married to Nadeem Haider, son of Salman Haider, former foreign secretary of India.
While scanning archives of Sangh Parivar’s Muslim side, one name that first comes to mind is Sikandar Bakht. He is being regarded as the first Muslim face of the Jan Sangh which later rebranded itself as BJP.
Bakht started his political career with the Congress but switched to Sangh in 1977. But years ago, Bakht’s love affair with Raj Sharma had sparked a controversy after Hindu Mahasabha had objected to his marriage saying Muslim men were endangering Hindus by luring their women away.
The term love jihad came into vogue since the Modi government assumed power in 2014. While the states are proposing laws against inter-faith marriages, the Central government has no data on the issue and has said that there is no definition of love jihad.
Not long ago, National Commission for Women (NCW) chief Rekha Sharma courted controversy when she said she discussed rising cases of love jihad with the Maharashtra Governor. But when an RTI was filed in NCW to know the number of such cases, the reply said: “No specific data under the category of complaints related to love jihad is maintained by NCW.”