In a move that has rekindled controversy surrounding the alleged practice of ‘love jihad’, Hindu right-wing group Vishva Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) young women’s wing, Durga Vahini, has launched a ‘ghar wapsi’ counter-campaign to reconvert Hindu women married to Muslim men. What has often been snubbed as an alarmist view, propagated by nationalist agitators, has become even more potent with the Hinduvta-centric organisation using a morphed image of actor Kareena Kapoor Khan to make an impassioned appeal to Hindu religious sentiment.
The cover of the latest issue of Himalaya Dhwani, a magazine brought out by Vahini’s northern India regional coordinator Rajni Thukral, features Kareena’s face half covered in a veil, reported the Hindustan Times. Below the picture of Kareena, who married actor Saif Ali Khan in 2012, read the words, “Conversion of nationality through religious conversion.”
Commenting on why Kareena’s image was used for the campaign, Thukral said, “She is a celebrity. The youth tries to emulate celebrities. They think if she can do so, why can’t we?” He added, “Sixteen Hindu women who married Muslim men posing as Hindus have approached us for ghar wapsi. We have already reconverted two. One has also been remarried.”
Saif, who had earlier said that he doesn’t believe in love jihad, expressed his revulsion over the magazine cover. “It’s ridiculous and not surprising, but these uneducated and bigoted ideas are the worst of India and condemning them is important,” he told the Hindustan Times.
Prakash Sharma of VHP, which is affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, according to ndtv.com, said that in case Kareena takes issue with the use of her image, she is free to sue the group, Zee News reported. “If Kareena has a problem with this, the doors of the court are always open for her,” he proclaimed.
In the magazine’s editorial section, Thukral commented, “There has been much debate on love jihad and conversions... If a girl gets caught in love jihad and becomes a Muslim by mistake and now wants to return to her original faith, isn’t it her right?”
Laying emphasis on how grave a concern love jihad is in Himachal Pradesh, Thukral said that Vahini “will go to 3,000 villages” and have “apprised the state government of love jihad there on a large scale.” She stated, “We are also taking up the matter on the national level. We had a conclave in MP recently and will have one in Delhi early in March.”
Last year, a campaign titled ‘Bahu Laao Beti Bachaao’ was launched by militant Hindu organisation Bajrang Dal, to fight love jihad and urge Hindu youths to marry and convert Muslim and Christian women to Hinduism. “Hindus are victims of ‘love jihad’. We are doing this for protection of Hindu girls. We are guiding Hindu men to respect and welcome girls of other religions,” stated Ajju Chauhan, state co-convener of Bajrang Dal, reported Times of India.
Interestingly, the upcoming Salman Khan and Kareena-starrer film Bajrangi Bhaijaan has been under the gun for its alleged promotion of love jihad. The news came to the fore after VHP circulated two audio tapes as part of its campaign against love jihad in Gujarat, reported Indian Express. One of the audio tapes features Salman saying that the film encourages love jihad and that Kareena will play a Brahmin girl who falls in love with a Muslim man in it. “The audio was created to bring awareness among Hindus that such a sinister plan is being executed by the minority community to entice young Hindu girls who get smitten by the romanticism in such movies,” said an unnamed VHP member.
The film’s director Kabir Khan rubbished the rumours, according to indiatoday.in. He said, “A lot of opinions were expressed against my doing this film because it is supposedly about love jihad. Firstly, I don’t understand what ‘love jihad’ is. So, why and how would I make a film on the theme? Secondly, even if I was, I wouldn’t stop just because some people don’t like what I am doing.”
COMPILED BY: AYESHA SHAIKH
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.
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