How a ‘love jihad’ case was manufactured in India’s Uttar Pradesh | Islamophobia News

Muzaffarnagar, India – In June final 12 months, authorities within the district of Muzaffarnagar in north India’s Uttar Pradesh state arrested a 22-year-old Muslim man on prices of fraud, sexual assault and compelled spiritual conversion.

Officers claimed the complainant was Amandeep Kaur, a 24-year-old Sikh lady from the person’s neighbourhood.

Constituting almost 1.7 p.c of its inhabitants, India is residence to the most important variety of Sikhs on the planet. Regardless of repeated makes an attempt by Hindu supremacist teams to membership the neighborhood underneath a wider Hindu umbrella, the Sikhs preserve they’re an impartial faith.

“It was a case of affection; they turned it into one thing referred to as ‘love jihad’,” Kaur informed Al Jazeera as she locked the doorways of the small home she shared along with her dad and mom.

“Love jihad” is a time period utilized by the Hindu political and non secular proper to explain an alleged phenomenon the place Muslim males lure Hindu ladies into marrying them and changing to Islam. Hindu teams declare, with out proof, it’s a conspiracy of an organised racket.

A 12 months after her relationship with Usman Qureshi grew to become a public spectacle, Kaur right this moment fears unknown faces – the media or anyone providing to “assist”. However she reiterates she shouldn’t be a sufferer – Qureshi was her consensual associate for greater than two years.

The couple’s ordeal started in October 2020 when the excessive courtroom in Uttar Pradesh deemed spiritual conversions solely for marital functions “unacceptable”.

Days later, Yogi Adityanath, the saffron-robed Bharatiya Janata Celebration (BJP) chief minister of the state identified for his anti-Muslim hate speech and insurance policies, gave a peculiar ultimatum.

Addressing a crowd in Jaunpur district forward of state meeting by-elections, Adityanath swore to guard the “honour and dignity of girls”,  particularly towards the phenomenon of “love jihad … at any value”.

“I warn those that conceal their identification and play with our sisters’ respect: if you happen to don’t mend your methods, your ‘Ram Naam Satya’ [a Hindu funeral chant] journey shall start,” he stated.

A month after his speech, Adityanath’s authorities handed the Prohibition of Illegal Conversion of Faith Ordinance.

The ordinance, which grew to become legislation in February 2021, declared spiritual conversion “via marriage, deceit, coercion, or enticement” a non-bailable offence, with the accused going through as much as 10 years in jail if discovered responsible.

In June 2021, Kaur’s father was summoned to a neighborhood police station. Unaware of the explanation, the 63-year-old retired sugar mill employee abided.

“Once I reached residence from work, I realised my father had been within the police station for greater than two hours. I knew one thing was not proper. However it is just once I reached there myself that I realised that this was not about him in any respect. It was about me,” Kaur, the youngest of three siblings, informed Al Jazeera.

When she reached the police station, she noticed a number of males in black and saffron clothes sitting round her father. She was requested to attend.

The boys surrounding her father claimed to be related to Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the far-right Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP).

Apprehensive of the gang, Kaur took out her cell phone to seek the advice of her elder brother dwelling within the nationwide capital, New Delhi. However earlier than she might dial, her telephone was snatched away by one of many males.

The cacophony of voices concurrently echoed sentiments of pity and rescue. The boys stated they needed to avenge her forceful spiritual conversion from Amandeep Kaur to “Jannat Qureshi” by her former Muslim associate.

Our non-public lives have been made political instruments.

by Amandeep Kaur, 24

When requested concerning the concentrating on of Muslim males by Hindu right-wing teams in alleged “love jihad” circumstances, New Delhi-based Rajiv Tuli, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), informed Al Jazeera: “I’m not conscious of any surveillance or involvement of Hindu organisations in such anti-conversion circumstances.”

The RSS, shaped in 1925 alongside the strains of European Nazism, is the ideological mentor of the BJP and most different Hindu supremacist teams in India. The organisation counts Prime Minister Narendra Modi amongst thousands and thousands of its lifetime members.

Kaur later got here to know {that a} faux Fb account was created along with her new Muslim identify and a photograph of her and Qureshi.

“A pal forwarded that Fb profile to me and I used to be baffled. The show {photograph} was one Usman and I had taken after we have been in a relationship, and he would typically lovingly name me ‘Jannat’ [heaven in Urdu]. However neither did we ever get married, nor was there any Jannat Qureshi,” she stated.

Petrified of involving the police within the matter, she tried to seek out the supply of the social media account via acquaintances and native cybercafes, however failed.

The Bajrang Dal males continued to hound Kaur to file a case towards Qureshi. She repeatedly refused, saying there was no case to file. All she needed was to contact her mom and escort her frail father residence.

However the dialog quickly turned aggressive and the issues of the lads had modified to threats. She was hurled with abuses, with the lads saying neither she nor her father could be allowed to go residence till she filed a criticism.

Apprehensive of their actions and seeing the situation of her father, she agreed to put in writing and signal no matter it took to flee from there.

“I might see all the pieces however not tears in my father’s eyes,” she stated.

A police criticism towards Qureshi – with whom she had separated and who was now married to a Muslim lady – was her sole saviour in that state of affairs.

After almost 5 hours of harassment and intimidation, Kaur was allowed to take her father residence.

The bogey of ‘love Jihad’ is divisive, constructed on faux information, and designed to foster hatred and suspicion between spiritual communities.

by Navsharan Singh, researcher and rights activist

Days later, on June 27, 2021, Qureshi was arrested. Based on the cost sheet filed by the police three months later, he had been accused of rape, breach of belief, dishonest and forgery. Three of the 5 prices have been non-bailable.

Two clauses from the Prohibition of Illegal Conversion of Faith Act have been additionally imposed towards him. A separate legal case was filed towards Qureshi’s elder brother, Nadeem.

“My life modified the following morning. From my neighbours to my co-workers – everybody checked out me otherwise, spoke to me otherwise,” stated Kaur, an arts graduate who labored as an adviser at an insurance coverage firm.

The aftermath of a brand new “love jihad” case within the communally-sensitive city of Muzaffarnagar compelled her to remain residence. She was suggested to take a break from work.

Over the following six months, Kaur consulted a number of legal professionals and travelled to the native courtroom virtually each two weeks. Compelled to rely solely on her financial savings, she ran pillar to publish to show the circumstances towards Qureshi and his brother have been fabricated.

“Girls like Amandeep Kaur are victims of a state and its norms that are each communal and patriarchal. Below the garb of safety, they’re remoted and compelled to struggle a battle to be heard,” journalist Pamela Philipose informed Al Jazeera.

‘Non-public lives made political instruments’

Inside the first month of the implementation of the “love jihad” legislation in Uttar Pradesh in March 2021, police registered 16 circumstances involving as many as 86 folks – 79 of them Muslims.

By November, the quantity swelled to 108 circumstances, naming 257 folks. In a number of circumstances, the accused weren’t simply the male companions of a Hindu lady, but in addition their relations and associates.

Nevertheless, the state authorities is but to furnish particulars on the complainants of the circumstances booked underneath the legislation.

“In a majority of circumstances underneath this anti-conversion legislation, the complainants haven’t been the ladies allegedly victimised, however their relations. Regardless of searching for particulars, the state has not revealed a lot knowledge,” Akram Akhtar Choudhary, a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the collective, Archive In opposition to Humanity, informed Al Jazeera.

In September 2021, Choudhary filed a Proper to Data software, searching for particulars of the circumstances registered underneath the legislation in 59 districts of Uttar Pradesh. Till now, solely 22 districts have responded, Muzaffarnagar being certainly one of them.

“We investigated and filed the cost sheet. We’re not conscious of the trial proceedings thereafter,” a police officer in Khatauli informed Al Jazeera when requested about Qureshi’s case.

Kaur stated the police had no witness within the case of her alleged conversion to Islam.

“The one proof the cost sheet had of my alleged spiritual conversion was an identification card within the identify of Jannat Qureshi, daughter of Iqbal Qureshi. However that’s not me,” she stated.

“I by no means transformed, not to mention make a brand new identification doc.”

Nevertheless, in contrast to different legal circumstances in India, the burden of proof doesn’t lie on the prosecution underneath the “love jihad” legislation. The elemental authorized maxim – harmless till confirmed responsible – doesn’t maintain true right here.

Based on the legislation, proving innocence past an inexpensive doubt is the duty of the individual inflicting the alleged spiritual conversion and people “facilitating” it.

“The bogey of ‘love Jihad’ is divisive, constructed on faux information, and designed to foster hatred and suspicion between spiritual communities,” researcher and rights activist Navsharan Singh informed Al Jazeera.

After spending virtually 9 months in jail, Qureshi was granted bail in March this 12 months.

“My consent, company and fundamental rights have been violated. I don’t assume I can overcome the trauma and harassment I used to be subjected to, and I can’t think about what number of different ladies like me are on the market,” Kaur informed Al Jazeera.

“Our non-public lives have been made political instruments,” she stated, choking on her phrases.

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