Right-wing organizations, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the VHP, organized an awareness programme for parents of young women across many regions of coastal Karnataka on “love jihad" on Wednesday.
This included visiting households, schools, colleges and distributing handbills across Mangaluru city and other parts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod.
“This awareness programme is mainly for girls’ parents; how to take care of girls; monitor their movements," M.B. Puranik, a VHP working president said on Tuesday. The awareness programme comes a day after two young women near Mangaluru, about 350km from Bengaluru, were assaulted by a group of men from unknown organizations for allegedly going out with Muslim men.
Though Tuesday’s incidents are not the trigger to the awareness campaign, Puranik said the 15-day awareness programme is not against any particular community but to ensure young girls are not easily influenced by messages on social media and take the “wrong step". The communally sensitive regions of coastal Karnataka which, along with the rest of the state, goes to polls later this year, has seen heightened activity with both majority and minority groups cracking down on inter-faith relationships, adding to the already tense environment with clashes between various groups.
On Wednesday, 28-year-old Deepak Rao was hacked to death by unidentified persons in Katipalla, near Surathkal in Dakshina Kannada district. “One more Hindu hacked to death near Mangaluru. No value for a Hindu’s life. Jihadi forces operating without any fear. Where are you Mr CM @siddaramaiah?" MP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shobha Karandlaje said on Twitter. BJP has claimed that many radical Islamic organizations have been targeting Hindus in the region to help consolidate the fragmented Hindu vote in the region ahead of elections. Most recently, BJP used the mysterious death of 19-year-old Paresh Mesta to allege that it was the handiwork of “jihadi" groups like the Popular Front of India (PFI) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).
Last year, there were clashes in coastal Karnataka after the killing of SDPI leader Ashraf Kalayi on 21 June, followed by a fatal attack on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker Sharath Madivala in early July.
Radical elements from both camps keep a close eye on youngsters and any incident of inter-religious friendship, especially between girls and boys, is dealt with mob justice.
The concept of “love jihad" has become a matter of debate across the country, especially with a Supreme Court case, in which Hadiya, a 24-year-old woman (formerly known as Akhila) from Kerala converted to Islam.
Police officials, who have served in the region, say that though the concept of “love jihad" is not originally from Karnataka, the issue has added to the tensions in the region.
A senior police official, on the condition of anonymity, said that any news of inter-faith couples being spotted anywhere is quickly passed on through social media or calls—sometimes even before the police gets hint of it. The official cited above said that he dealt with such cases almost on a daily basis.
Narendar Pani, political analyst and professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) says that this sort of narrative fits into the right wing politics. “They (BJP and right wing) have to keep the discourse at a high pitch. Love jihad is one of the things that fits into your conservative protecting-of-your-woman narrative. It helps to generate passion. They will be using to generate this passion." However, he says that its success depends on the reaction of the people and if these issues can generate anger among the masses.