By Akash Vashishtha
Indian activists blamed the government’s rightwing Hindu ideology Friday for a Muslim man’s gruesome killing, which was videotaped and posted online, and which police believe was religiously motivated.
A Hindu man, Shambunath Raigar, is in custody as a suspect in the slaying of Muslim laborer Mohammad Afrazul in western Rajasthan state on Wednesday, police said. The suspect had allegedly objected to the Muslim’s intention to marry a local Hindu woman.
The video, which went viral on social media, shows Afrazul, 35, being hacked with a machete, set on fire, and burned alive. The suspect is seen in the video wearing a saffron-colored outfit and shouting anti-Muslim rants, police said. These include warnings against so-called “love jihad,” in which male members of India’s Muslim minority men allegedly feign love for Hindu women in order to marry and subsequently convert them to Islam.
The color saffron is associated with India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“We have arrested [a] person called Shambunath Raigar for the crime. He seems unrepentant,” a police official in Rajsamand town, Rajasthan, told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.
“Afrazul was in love with a Hindu girl from his [Raigar’s] locality,” he said.
Supreme Court case
The killing occurred amid an ongoing Supreme Court hearing of a Hindu who claims that his daughter was forced into marriage by a suspected Indian Muslim member of the extremist group Islamic State for the sole purpose of converting and radicalizing her.
“The BJP-RSS have a single point communal agenda and is out there to spoil communal harmony. They have an agenda of dividing and spreading fear among people. Human rights do not exist according to them,” Shakir Ali of the All Indian Minorities Commission told BenarNews.
Rubina Patel, a prominent Muslim women’s rights activist, said “love jihad” was a word coined by politicians to foment social discord and divisions.
“People have been falling in love for centuries regardless of religion. If it’s becoming an issue for the sake of politics, it is wrong. Misguiding a boy or a girl – or the whole community – that something called love jihad is happening is wrong,” she told BenarNews.
‘Provoking our girls’
According to right-wing activists, “love jihad” exists and is on the rise in India.
“The Supreme Court has also accepted its existence. The media has extensively surveyed and assessed it across the country and found it to be true. The Hindus are very much provoked by love jihad,” Amit Aryan, president of Jai Shiv Sena, a Hindu group, told BenarNews.
“Wednesday’s incident is proof that Muslim men are provoking our girls,” he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, however, described the incident as “deplorable.” Meanwhile, here fellow BJP members said that occurrences of Muslims marrying women from other religions for conversion purposes were common but the term “love jihad” was not created by the party.
“Love-jihad is coined by the Kerala High Court. Some three years back, around 50,000 Hindus and Christians were radicalized and converted to Islam there. The issue was discussed even by the Congress party and LDF (Left Democratic Front) in the Kerala Assembly when several members of the Church had raised it,” BJP spokesman, GVL Narsimha Rao, told BenarNews.
“It [these conversions] are a real social and security problem. The NIA has also investigated some cases. It’s not a creation by anybody but a real, social, security and law and order problem in country,” he said, referring to India’s National Investigation Agency.