Indian mass-media insinuating reportage under the suggestive heading “Love Jihad” is yet another example of bad journalism in the largest democracy of the world.
The term ‘Love Jihad’ was used by local media in southern state of Kerala to label inter-religious relationships, allegedly aimed at converting women to Islam, has done more harm then good to the multicultural Indian society.
These sort of inter-religious marriages have been taking place throughout India since several thousands years both ways. There had been thousands of Muslim boys and girls who have taken Hindu spouses and Vice-Versa. Some have changed their religion other live without any change in religion in a state of matrimonial bliss. Indian constitution allows and legalizes inter-caste and inter-religious marriages aiming at greater integration of Indian society.
The usage ‘Love Jihad’ was coined by the local press when two Hindu girls, both MBA students, married two Muslim boys Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, natives of Pathanamthitta village in Kerala, apparently on their own wish as were adults. These girls were living with their husbands, when their parents filed habeas corpus in the Kerala High Court.
The girls, in response to the summon appeared in the court wearing traditional Muslim Burqa and reportedly asked the court’s permission to live with their husbands, as they would not be able to live according to their religious faith when with parents.
The court however turned their request and sent them to live with the parents, directing the parents to provide all help for the girls to follow their new religion.
A twist in the tale emerges when the girls were presented in the court next time, where they retracted their early version and said that the boys had forcefully converted them to Islam.
A hell broke loose and local media lapped this up with screaming headline ‘Love Jihad’ on the prowl. It was on the basis of the confessional statements of the girls and due to media trial that the two Muslim youth were arrested on charges of having feigned love and marriage to convert to the Hindu girls to Islam.
The Kerala High Court while considering the bail applications of Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, the two accused in Love Jihad controversy ordered inquiry into the matter. The court asked the state police to submit a report on the occurrence of compulsive religious love based conversions that have taken place in Kerala during the last three years. It also raised questions like to find if there was a movement called “Love Jihad” functioning in the state
The police after initiating an inquiry submitted its report to the court where it said that it has found no organization or movement in the name of “Love Jihad” functioning in Kerala.
The report submitted by Mr Jacob Punnoose, Director General of Police, in the Kerala High Court, says no evidence has been found regarding the functioning of any such organization dealing with forced conversion in the state.
The report further says that there was no evidence for such activities getting funds from abroad and no proof for such activities being connected to counterfeiting, smuggling, and drug trafficking and terrorist activities. It found no evidence for such activities going on in other parts of the country.
The report further reiterates that except for the two cases under consideration in the court, there have not been any cases regarding forced conversions based on love. The police had registered complaints and were actively investigating the matter in the two cases mentioned.
The report submitted by the DGP mentions that there have been allegations from many corners that such activities were going on in the state for the past few years but after investigation it was found that there are no reasons to suspect the existence of concerted attempts to force girls into conversion.
As evident that there was enough juice in the story and the local media went gaga with damning headline of ‘Love Jihad’ never considering the consequences such reportage would have on the society, especially if such story is put in the garbage bin by the court and the police.
In related development, Shahen Shah and Sirajudheen, the accused boys, have decided to withdraw their bail applications submitted at the Kerala High Court as they reportedly felt were not sure of getting justice in the prevailing circumstances. They are widely hunted by the media in the “Love Jihad” controversy and may not lead normal life if they come out on bail.
The ‘Love Jihad’ story is a glaring example of irresponsible journalism that’s going on in the country particularly at the regional centers. The media instead of highlighting the fact that the girls in question could have easily told the judge in their first appearance that they had undergone forced conversion, but instead asserted were convinced converts but later retracted their version, is something that’s intriguing and needs to be investigated. Instead, it simply tried to peddle the gig “Love Jihad” to sensationalize a simple story that had a human face.
It’s a fact that such biased reportage crops up with impunity in the country and until and unless, some mechanism is evolved to check them sternly, Indian society may continue to be poisoned by such irresponsible journalism.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com