Editor’s Note: This month, that is December 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Modern Love and Relationships, where we invite various articles to highlight how love has been fundamental in our lifeworlds and how these experiences and perceptions around love are shaped by our identities in a modern Indian context. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the recent propaganda of the Love Jihad law, comes many initiatives and campaigns to expose its lies. Love Azad is one national campaign launched by the All India Students Association (AISA) to counter the malicious and false narrative of ‘Love Jihad’—an ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh government.
This law has been implemented by several State governments after the propaganda initiated by the nexus of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). “The campaign promotes the idea of ‘Love Azad’ as an antithesis to the hateful and divisive politics of BJP,” reads an online campaign message forwarded by the organisation.
Choosing one’s partner and loving someone has always been regulated in our society, especially when the one making a choice is a woman. Killings in the name of honor has been a pathetically old phenomenon which still does not see an end. Women have been under an undeclared house arrest since as long as I can remember. Our freedom and agency have been trammeled under the garb of safety and security. This narrative which provides women with an uncalled Samaritan, presents itself in different ways.
Love Jihad is inherently a communal and sexist law which fails to understand anything about personal liberty and looks at love as jihad, when done outside the locks of oppression. The dangerous legal ordinance limits the frame of love with a layered agenda to vilify Muslim men and restrict women’s autonomy. “We have no problem in changes and compromises that women make as long as these changes and compromises suit the patriarchal structures and privileges. These are changes and compromises that we often force out of women. When women pick their battles and changes, then we are shaken and troubled,” says Dr Shivani Nag, Asst. Professor at Ambedkar University, Delhi.
The current ruling government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always proved itself to be able to distract its citizen from the immediate genuine concerns. From creating JNU Row as a diversion from the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula to now shifting the focus from the historical protests of farmers against the farm bills and bringing it to the controversy of Love Jihad. BJP has yet again tried to move people’s attention and bring it to the useless debate of Hindu-Muslim hatred, where Muslim men are being criminalised. Leaving the discussion around education, healthcare and employment aside, BJP wants us to talk about the necessary measures of controlling women and their autonomy while placing continuous surveillance on them.
Hence, in these unsettling times, when spaces of free expression is being curbed to spread communal hatred, the campaign of “Love Azad exposes the nefarious designs to threaten love through lies and fabricated hate campaigns,” reads another solidarity message for the campaign. This abhorrent term of ‘Love Jihad’ is used only by the nexus of Sangh parivaar (Saffron brigade) and no other. The term stands no legal and historical grounds expect for some anarchic instances which tries to justify and encourage hatred and communal violence. Although, the agenda of vilification and criminalisation of Muslims has been time and again used by politicians to suit their agenda, the politics around the term remains unique to BJP.
Conversion and consent can go together and this is something that the current government denies to acknowledge. We already have a law in place which protects people from getting coerced into marriage. The sham of ‘Love Jihad’ penalises and criminalises even if two people from different communities marry out of love. Inter-faith marriages are being restricted within a single frame of coercion and allurement after the recent law.
Moreover, the legitimisation of the already present stigma puts Muslim men in a ‘criminal’ position and tries to ‘control’ women. The Uttar Pradesh police recently arrested a Muslim man under the farce law. To this, his partner pleaded, “I am not a minor, I want to marry the man I love at my own will.” The judgement by the Allahabad court came as a response to this hateful propaganda which read, “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat Ansari as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who – out of their own free will and choice are living together peacefully and happily over a year.”
Colin Gonsalves, senior Supreme Court advocate and the founder of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), appeals to all citizens to come out in support of love and rise in revolt against this law. He also explains how ‘Love Jihad’ is unconstitutional and right to love and life is fundamental in nature because love is not and cannot be unlawful.
The BJP led government has been vividly clear in its agenda of the imposition of manusmriti (the holy book of RSS) and replication of Nazi Germany through such similar, and various ordinances and acts. However, we deny succumbing to these autocratic measures. We declare to reclaim love outside the boundaries of caste, class, religion, gender, ability, race and everything that tries to limit our frame of love and freedom. We assert our rights through the slogans: Pyaar karne ki azaadi (freedom to love), Saathi chunne ki azaadi (freedom to choose our partner), and we will continue to love without fear.
All images have been provided by the campaign management.