In Rajasthan, a case of “love jihad” cuts stereotypes of caste and party allegiances

26 July 2019
The bogey of “love jihad” is a favoured trope of right-wing Hindu nationalism and India has witnessed numerous protests against love jihad since the BJP came to power at the centre. However, a recent case of alleged love jihad in Rajasthan shows that the narrative has become far more complex than the simple binary of Hindu-Muslim relations.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images
The bogey of “love jihad” is a favoured trope of right-wing Hindu nationalism and India has witnessed numerous protests against love jihad since the BJP came to power at the centre. However, a recent case of alleged love jihad in Rajasthan shows that the narrative has become far more complex than the simple binary of Hindu-Muslim relations.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images

At around 8 am on 11 June, Kayum Khan stepped out of his house in Bhadarna, a working-class neighbourhood in the northern outskirts of Jaipur. Barely fifty meters down the road, a middle-aged woman named Indra Devi approached Kayum and started screaming, “Who do you think you are? You think you can send our girl to the police?” She grabbed his collar and slapped him. Kayum was momentarily disoriented, but noticed that a young girl appeared from behind a parked truck and yelled, “Save me from him.” The girl pointed towards Kayum and said, “He is molesting me.” Simultaneously, a well-built young man—Indra’s son Indrapal Choudhury—charged at Kayum, punched him in the face and began to beat him. Within minutes, an old couple, Rajkumar Choudhury and his wife Saroj Devi, joined in. The four kicked and punched the prone Kayum. A crowd gathered and tried to save Kayum from the assailants. The attackers, a Jat family who also live in Bhadarna, told the crowd that Kayum had molested Saloni, the young 17-year-old girl, who watched the entire assault from the sidelines.

Kayum’s family and the Choudhurys reside in the same locality. In 2016, Kayum first met Shveta, the elder daughter of Rajkumar and Saroj. Soon after, the couple fell in love and in 2018, decided to get married. But there was intense opposition to the match from the Choudhury family who beat her up when they heard the news. Her parents continued to harass her over the relationship and on 7 June this year, Shveta sought help from the police when her father threatened to kill her. The police sent her to Shakti Stambh, a short-stay home for women in distress. Four days later, the Choudhurys attacked Kayum. Akhtar Khan, Kayum’s father, told me that the Choudhurys “have been angry with us for some time ... They felt he was responsible for sending her to a women’s shelter.”

On the day of the attack, a short while after the assault began, police officials from Jaipur’s Vishwakarma police station—the incident took place in their jurisdiction—were called by the locals to break-up the altercation. The police sent a badly bruised Kayum to the Hari Baksh Kanwatia Hospital in Jaipur’s Shastri Nagar locality. He gave an oral statement to the police at the hospital, based on which a first information report was filed against the Choudhurys. While Kayum was in the hospital, a mob of around hundred people, comprising members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal—both organisations are affiliated to the Sangh Parivar—and the Karni Sena, a group which represents the Rajput community and is known for its violent tactics, surrounded the police station and demanded that a case of molestation be filed against Kayum. They shouted slogans against “love jihad”—a conspiracy theory usually propagated by right-wing Hindu outfits who claim that Muslim men lure Hindu women and convert them to Islam. At least two leaders of the Congress party—Sandeep Jakhar, a youth leader, and Sitaram Agarwal, a Congress candidate from the Vidyadhar Nagar assembly constituency—were also part of the mob.

The police charged Kayum under six sections of the Indian Penal Code that deal with sexual assault, and four sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Notably, the FIR against Kayum was filed before the FIR against the Choudhury family. Kayum was arrested the very next day and was in jail till 20 July, when his second bail plea was accepted. In sharp contrast, none of the Choudhury family members have been arrested so far and the charges against them—under sections 323, 143, 341 of the IPC—are minor and bailable.

Soon after the FIR against Kayum was filed, Jakhar put up a Facebook post—he called it a “press note”—which said that he and a number of other leaders had staged a demonstration against love jihad. The post also threatened that the protests would be escalated if Kayum was not prosecuted.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: love jihad Vishwa Hindu parishad Bajrang Dal Rajasthan Indian National Congress Islam
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