Written by Muskaan Bangani of Mody University of Science and Technology and Abhishek Bagaria of Shri Ram college of commerce
Love jihad is a purportedly malicious activity in which Muslim men target the women of any non-Muslim community, especially Hindu and Christian women, by feigning love, with the ulterior motive of converting them to Islam and subordinating them. It refers to any attempt made by Muslim religious zealots and fanatics to lure women of Hindu, Christian and other non-Muslim communities into a conjugal or sexual relationship and use this as leverage for converting their religion to Islam by force, indoctrination or persuasion. In love jihad, the factor of love is used as an instrument or as a means of entrapping an innocent woman/girl. The attempt is to prey upon vulnerable and gullible women and draw them into a relationship with a hidden, sinister motive of religious conversion and subjugation. However, it does not refer to the cases of genuine love, which may spontaneously develop between two consenting adults arising out of mutual attraction despite their different religious, cultural and social backgrounds.
WHY IS IT DIFFERENT FROM INTER FAITH MARRIAGE?
Love jihad is different from any other inter-faith marriage for mainly two reasons, the first one being that it’s an organised effort involving many members of a particular organisation working in sync to trap unassuming girls. Here the recruiter is identified, trained and funded whereas the other stakeholders in the network are assigned tasks to facilitate recruitment and transit of the victim to a specified location or to a certain prescribed destination as instructed by the superiors of their organisation. The second feature that sets a love jihad marriage apart from a conventional inter-religious marriage is its prime objective— religious conversion. The purpose of love jihad post-marriage, however, still remains to be investigated. 
The most relevant and popular case that comes to mind is of Akhila Ashokan (Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M & ORS), formerly known as Hadiya’s Case , who was a 24 year old homeopathic medical student from Vaikom, Kerala. The story began in early 2016, when she was reported missing by her father, who first filed a police complaint and also a habeas corpus in the High Court of Kerala to find her. Hadiya had blamed her father’s forbiddance to practice Islam as the reason for her leaving. While she was absconding, she had stayed with the president of the Popular Front of India’s women’s wing National Women’s Front and had converted to Islam by marrying a Muslim man called Shafin Jehan. And the fact that raised eyebrows was that Shafin Jehan was an active member of the PFI affiliated Social Democratic Party of India. Hadiya’s family alleged that she had been brainwashed and forced into a marriage and also illegally converted to Islam. However, Hadiya claimed that she acted out of her own will.
In May 2017, after an intense legal battle , Hadiya’s marriage was termed void and hence annulled by the High Court of Kerala on the basis of a report submitted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to the Supreme Court of India (SC), stating that Hadiya was a victim of brainwashing and psychological indoctrination, and that her claims of their marriage being fixed through an online match making portal were fake and preposterous. Her custody was handed over to her father, Ashokan, based on the argument that “As per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married.” Shafin Jahan then moved to the Supreme Court. In November 2017, the Supreme Court of India allowed Hadiya to resume her internship, and gave her the freedom to meet who ever she wanted to. And later in March 2018, the Supreme court restored Hadiya’s marriage, almost 10 months after the High Court of Kerala had annulled it. The term ‘love jihad’ is used to headline this case in the media.
There are many more ‘love jihad’ cases, including the one of Payal Singhvi, in which the final verdict is awaited in the Supreme Court. The victims and plaintiffs have not been as lucky as Hadiya because their cases remain untried and undecided. No concrete action has been taken to investigate and to bring to the knowledge of the public, the exact modus operandi of ‘love jihad’. The only known certainty in love jihad is that conversion is a prerequisite to marriage. Sadly, there is not much research done on the post-marriage role of the victim. The girl’s post marriage has to be understood and documented. Conspiracy theorists assert that post conversion these girls could be sent abroad and exploited, either as members in a terrorist outfit after indoctrination, or as ‘comfort girls/sex toys’ to soldiers of the ISIS, exploited sexually to gratify the terrorists. The girls’ interaction with the outside world is restricted and she is totally dependent on her husband or the other members of the trafficking network, and hence is more vulnerable to their views. They could also simply be forced into labour or prostitution if they do not end up dead as unwilling donors of organs in the rampant international organ trade. According to social observers and thinkers, it is uncertain what dark fate awaits the victims of ‘love jihad’. 
DATA AND STATISTICS
The Catholic Bishops Council of Kerala reported that in 2009 alone about 4,500 girls in the State were targeted for the purpose. Another report from a Hindu organization estimated that about 30,000 girls in Karnataka were converted similarly. While these figures were not officially verified, the Kerala Chief Minister stated in a report that since 2006 the number of women who were converted to Islam through marriages stood at 2667.
What is the solution to this problem? As love is beyond language, faith, culture and religion; if a girl and a boy (both of legal marrying age) fall in love and then decide to get married, nothing must and can stop them from doing so. If their love is genuine and if they think that love is above religion, then they can and should marry under Civil Law. However, if they think that religion is above love, they can undergo a religious conversion and get married under Sharia Law. The choice is up to them, but they must know their rights and the terms, conditions and consequences of their wilful actions, under both the Civil law and Sharia law to avoid any kind of regret later and discomfort to the other members of their families . At the same time, strong legislation needs to be brought forward to deter actual wrongdoers and planners/plotters/executors of such elaborate schemes of conversion.
Judicial conviction and adequate punishment should be awarded in cases where the crime is proven.
 Salah UddinShoaibChoudhury, Denying the Allegations of Forceful Conversion, August 20, 2020.
 War in The Name of Love, 2018
 AIR 2018 SC 343
 Veerendra Mishra, The Truth about Love Jihad, November, 2017 https://openthemagazine.com/features/religion/the-truth-about-love-jihad/
War in The Name of Love, 2018
Image courtesy: OpIndia