RSS declares intensified campaign against 'love jihad' and religious conversion
Sangh leader Mohan Bhagwat is looking to step up mobilisation of "ideologically inclined youth" and gain the support of women, Dalit and OBC voters in Uttar Pradesh
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has announced an 'escalated' campaign against 'love jihad' and religious conversion involving 'enticements'.
The Hindu right-wing organisation is also hoping to convince women, Dalit and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) citizens to become torchbearers of its 'samajik sadbhav (social harmony)' campaign, with supposedly a view to furthering the Sangh’s larger design of 'Hindu unity'.
This decision, arrived at after multiple meetings, was announced by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during his ongoing Awadh Prant visit in Lucknow.
For its organisational purposes, the RSS has divided Uttar Pradesh into six areas — Braj, Meerut (both west UP), Kanpur–Bundelkhand, Awadh, Gorakhpur and Kashi (Varanasi) — and will be accelerating its efforts to recruit more 'ideologically inclines' youth in each of these areas.
‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by the Sangh’s affiliate Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to describe the idea of Hindu women being lured by Muslim men to enter into a relationship with them and then being pressured into converting to Islam.
It is, of course, one of the most frequently trotted out bogeys amongst the popular Hindutva dog whistles of recent years, resulting in a string of public lynchings and mob 'justice' where Muslim men or youth found with any Hindu woman or girl are trounced on the basis of suspicion alone.
The RSS's new announcement (or threat, depending on whom you ask) of stepping up its operations in the coming few months, of course, holds particular significance for two reasons — the Sangh’s own centenary celebrations are coming in September 2025, the putative logic for the expanded and intensified campaigning, and the more immediate impact on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections ahead.
Training camps and workshops to introduce youngsters to the Sangh’s ideology and functioning are already a key modus operandi of course — have been for decades.
“It has been decided to step up the Sangh’s outreach campaign in rural areas, besides pressing the accelerator on (opposing) anti-national activities, love jihad and religious conversion through enticements,” said an RSS leader. The definition of 'anti-national' remains a little nebulous here.
‘Matantaran’ (religious conversion through enticements) and love jihad have long been on the Sangh’s agenda of attacks, but have gained a considerably greater impetus since 2017 in this Uttar Pradesh, with the 'double-engine' BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.
The RSS leader 'clarified' that the campaign was not directed against Muslims per se, but against 'misguided youths'. To prove this point, the Sangh has floated a Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) to connect with 'nationalist Muslims', they said.
Marginalised but numerically dominant and politically important communities are also in the Sangh's sights — hence the increased focus on bringing along women, Dalit and OBC constituencies as standard bearers of the 'sanatan dharma'.
The RSS leadership claims that OBC and Dalit votes have been the mainstay of the BJP’s success in Uttar Pradesh since 2014 when the party did away with the perception of it largely being a party of upper castes and traders (the middle rung of the caste system).
This change, a RSS functionary said, is facilitated within the Sangh by allowing cadres to not use their surnames to conceal their caste identity, as a step towards the Sangh’s larger design of 'Hindu unity' and grooming cadres with 'nationalistic intent'.
Of course, some like Bhamvara Meghavanshi of I Could Not Be a Hindu fame would disagree with the RSS's claim of success on these grounds.
With inputs from IANS