India’s Supreme Court started hearing a case yesterday that prosecutors say shows how Islamic State sympathisers are using “Love Jihad” – marrying Hindu women and converting them to Islam – to win recruits and spread their message.
Over the past 28 months, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has picked up dozens of interfaith couples in the southern state of Kerala to question them about their marriages.
The women – all Hindus who married Muslims – were asked “extremely personal” questions during the interrogations, two police officers from the agency said.
These included: “Did you sleep with your husband before getting married? Did he suggest you visit Islamic shrines before marriage? Did he blackmail you before you converted to Islam?”
They were looking for cases of “Love Jihad”, a term publicised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other hardline Hindu groups soon after they helped propel Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power in 2014. It refers to what these groups say is an Islamist campaign to convert Hindu women through seduction and marriage.
Police investigations at the time found no evidence of any organised strategy, and the claim was widely ridiculed.
But since then, the NIA has began focusing on Kerala, a state along the Arabian Sea with strong economic links to the Middle East.
It investigated 89 cases of “Love Jihad” and found nine to be alliances planned by people linked to the Islamic State, two NIA sources said, requesting anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The NIA will present evidence in the nine cases. The agency declined to disclose its evidence. But in two of the cases it was examining money sent from an Islamic school in Iraq to the women’s bank accounts, and in another case a woman and her husband had shared IS videos among people in their Kerala village, the sources said.
Opposition parties say the investigation shows the government is allowing the RSS and others to use the state apparatus to further an agenda of establishing Hindu dominance in India, where 13% of the population is Muslim.
MB Rajesh, a federal politician and member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which rules Kerala, said the NIA and the RSS were trying to prove that marriages between Hindus and Muslims were forced unions.
“The NIA’s probe is creating religious fault lines to help Modi’s party win [Kerala’s] state elections, but we will defeat them.”
J Nandakumar, an RSS leader who oversees the group’s activities in the state, said the NIA investigation vindicated the Hindu rights campaign against religious conversions.
“Their first step is to convert Hindu boys and girls, hypnotise them and prepare them for jihad.”
The RSS, which founded the first iteration of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party six decades ago, believes India is fundamentally a Hindu nation.
Since Modi’s election in May 2014, the RSS has expanded its membership and influence across India and either it or its affiliates now run key ministries. – Reuters