The northern Indian state of Uttarakhand is experiencing a disturbing surge in anti-Muslim hate triggered by an accusation of “love jihad,” reports Indian Muslim activist Umar Farooq.
Love Jihad is a Hindutva conspiracy theory alleging that Muslim men are enticing Hindu women into marriage to convert them to Islam, made world famous by the Hindutva hate film, The Kerala Story.
And it was exploited on May 26 when two men (one a 24-year-old Muslim) were accused of attempting to kidnap a 14-year-old Hindu girl in the village of Purola.
While the accused were arrested and charged, Hindu extremist groups seized the opportunity to exploit the incident for their agenda.
The next day, the Hindutva groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal organised a rally in Purola, demanding the expulsion of all Muslims within 15 days.
Notices were plastered on Muslim homes and shops, branding them as “encroachers” and “outsiders,” igniting fear among the minority Muslim population.
Prakash Kumar Dabral, a leader from the ruling BJP party, said: “We will cordially chuck them out of here. We will not let them do business here, will not let them open shops.”
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had previously endorsed claims of “love jihad” and “land jihad.” Despite the absence of legal definitions for these terms, they are being used to justify discrimination against Muslims.
Dhami, a loyal RSS worker, has consistently painted Muslims as outsiders and threats to the state’s purity. “We will not let ‘land jihad’ prosper. We believe in the law. We will not allow anyone’s appeasement,” Dhami said in April.
Moreover, the campaign to marginalise Muslims in Uttarakhand is receiving support from top-level officials, including Chief Minister Dhami.
Hindu nationalist organisations like VHP and Bajrang Dal, affiliated with the Hindutva umbrella organisation the Sangh Parivar, are actively promoting the divisive agenda.
In Uttarakhand, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) aims to double its current 1,400 branches within the next two years. RSS activists say that their mission is to caution Hindus about perceived threats to the “holy land” posed by Muslim residents.
Hindus call Uttarakhand the “Land of the Gods” or “Devbhoomi” because of the presence of many temples and pilgrimage centres there.
In July, Swami Darshan Bharti organised a “Dharmik Sansad” (religious parliament) in the city of Rishikesh, urging Hindus to unite against the perceived “Muslim invasion” of Uttarakhand, suggesting that Muslims should either convert to Hinduism or leave India.
And a recent “divine court” in the city of Dehradun, organised by the Chhatarpur Hindu Chief of Bageshwar Dham, also saw controversial remarks about India’s identity and religious diversity where it was claimed that only the Santana (Hinduism) should be tolerated in Uttarakhand.
Of course, this unchecked hate speech is replicated in many other areas of India and is now garnering international headlines.
A recent Human Rights Watch report has accused the ruling BJP of encouraging hate crimes against minorities and failing to hold the perpetrators accountable.
The report also states that the BJP and its supporters have “used communally divisive rhetoric and policies to polarise Indian society along religious lines, and to portray Muslims as anti-nationals, and a threat to the Hindu majority.”