Love versus anti-Romeo ‘jihad’

A Muslim documentary filmmaker chasing Hindutva vigilantes around, from parks to girls’ schools, with his camera and mic on. How does the film shape up?

Love versus anti-Romeo ‘jihad’

Garima Sadhwani

When Ahmer Khan, an Emmy nominated multimedia journalist, first decided to work on a documentary on the Hindutva vigilantes in Uttar Pradesh, he knew he had a tough couple of months ahead in store for him.

But as a reporter, he knew that he had to document everything and capture it for the world to see, “to report whatever’s happening, and report it right,” says Khan. It’s not easy as it would sound to some though.

Following subjects and covering their lives for a documentary is tough, it requires the people involved to have complete trust on the producers, and that is something that takes a lot of time. Khan stayed in Uttar Pradesh from February to May this year filming this documentary. For him, it also became doubly difficult because his subject was Love Jihad. He was everything the vigilantes were opposed to, Muslim and Kashmiri.

“What’s happening is unimaginable for the minority community, and for the greater good of the country as well,” says Khan. His documentary, The Hindu Extremists at War with Interfaith Love, follows the lives of people in Hardoi, a small town in UP, where Vishwa Hindu Parishad members “save Hindu girls” from the trap of Muslim boys who only want to convert them through “love jihad”.

These vigilantes also then arrange marriages for the “rescued Hindu girls” with Hindu men.

Khan followed these men from their meetings, where they openly propagated hatred for Muslims, to schools where they taught young women about the “dangers of Muslim men” to the weddings they arranged for the Hindu women. However, nowhere did they allow the team to actually talk to these women. Perhaps they would have told the journalist that the arranged marriage was against their wishes afterall. Who knows?

It’s a different case when it comes to Hindu families though. Many of them voluntarily go to VHP activists or other right-wing groups if they need help in such situations, because unlike the law which follows due course, these vigilantes “sort things out” quicker, explains Khan.

The Muslim families, on the other hand, have to bear the brunt of this. Khan’s documentary talks about one such Muslim family in Sitapur, whose lives were turned upside down after their relative, Jibrael, ran away with his Hindu neighbour. The family was accused of conspiring the whole event, and 13 of Jibrael’s relatives were arrested.

Love versus anti-Romeo ‘jihad’

Many people that Khan met told him clearly that they know love jihad is nothing more than a conspiracy, because everyone knows the population of Hindus and Muslims in India doesn’t even come close. But the narrative still persists.

Khan doesn’t know if his documentary will make a difference. He says that people will either roll their eyes, or actually take a look at the problem and see how deeply it has entrenched our society. In either scenario, he knows it was his job to report and he did.

Khan is now working on a documentary on the same topic in the southern state of Karnataka.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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