India is a land of myths. Indians, through long habit, are more tuned in to myths than to everyday rationality. They are eager to believe. Some modern myths are similar to conspiracy theories — Indians love these as much as they do myths. These stories, or reports, like conspiracy theories, hover between possibility and fantasy; once formed, they gobble up everything that could establish their validity. Hence when Tara Shahdeo, the champion shooter, complained of the deception practised on her by her husband, who had pretended to belong to her community but turned out to be part of the minority community, her story became part of the ‘love jihad’ narrative now flooding the country. Hindutva outfits are claiming that thousands of girls from the majority community are being seduced by men from the minority community. The girls convert, marry, and then produce children, so that a new kind of jihad aimed at making the minority community dominant can be carried out. It is an indication of the complete silliness of the Indian public that such paranoid crudeness draws excited attention. But Ms Shahdeo’s complaint, which included efforts to convert her forcibly, was the perfect model around which the love jihad narrative could cling; so what was basically a lone story of marital deception became the archetype for the love jihad.
The serious consequences of such narratives cannot be underestimated. In Uttar Pradesh, already perched on the knife-edge of sectarian conflict, Hindutva outfits are forming bodies to ‘prevent’ the conversion of girls. Women are being used to drive a wedge between communities, while their independence is being curbed too: girls do not know what is good for them, they must be protected and controlled. Yet, no one has been able to produce evidence of a planned movement. Kerala and Karnataka actually conducted police inquiries into the alleged phenomenon. They not only concluded it was non-existent, but the police in Kerala also charged a Hindutva-minded website with spreading hatred and false propaganda. Not surprisingly, seducer training camps are not as evident as terrorist training camps. Perhaps the Bharatiya Janata Party should put a stop to the spread of such dangerous narratives if it wishes to be known as an advocate of development.