In the first week of August, a few days after the national media had descended on Meerut to cover the story of the alleged gang rape and forced conversion of a young woman, I received a call from Muzaffarnagar. The caller, a lawyer and Jat political activist recently aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, was irate that while the Meerut story received wall-to-wall coverage in the national press, there was no interest in another story of abduction, rape and forcible conversion of a Hindu woman from the town of Thana Bhawan in Shamli district.
A year ago, my caller, while trying to explain the communally vitiated atmosphere of Muzaffarnagar, had told me that some Hindu organisations had said that well-dressed young Muslim men on motorcycles, red puja threads tied on their wrists, and with ambiguous nick-names, hung around girls’ high schools and colleges with the intention of seducing them. He sounded unconvinced as he told me this. I asked him if they called it “love jihad” as they did in Kerala and Karnataka. He said he’d never heard of that term nor read about it in the papers.
Some months later at the Muzaffarnagar home of a BJP member, who described himself as a life-long swayamsevak, I was asked if I knew about “loving jihad.” It was a rhetorical question. My host, and his friend, who campaigned actively for the BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan, proceeded to tell me that it was a conspiracy hatched in Deoband to get young Muslim men to ensnare Hindu women by feigning love in order to increase the Muslim population. The more Hindu women married Muslim men, were impregnated by them and converted to Islam, the fewer Hindu wombs there would be to produce Hindu children.