Cablegate: Alleged "Love Jihad" Heats Religious Tensions in South

DE RUEHCG #0045/01 0570644
R 260644Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) 09 Chennai 100, B) 09 Chennai 25, C) 09 Chennai 213, D) 08
Chennai 350

1. (U) Summary: An alleged conspiracy of "foreign-funded" Muslim
men attempting to seduce, marry, and convert Hindu and Christian
women, has led to state-level investigations and generated
widespread suspicions in South India. The media has dubbed the
so-called conspiracy a "Love Jihad," and top politicians in
Karnataka and Kerala have found themselves forced to confront the
issue publicly. Both Hindu and Christian groups have expressed fear
and outrage at the "plot," while Muslim groups have felt the need to
defend their co-religionists against the conspiracy theorists.
Ongoing police investigations in South India have cast doubt on the
existence of a "Love Jihad", but the recurring assertion of its
existence despite contrary evidence demonstrates the suspicion and
intolerance that exist among some of the religious communities in
the region. The "Love Jihad" controversy has its origins in the
coastal region of southern Karnataka and northern Kerala, where
forms of religious and communal violence occur with unfortunate
regularity (refs B, C, and D, among others). End Summary.

"Love Jihad" grabs the public's attention

2. (U) The alleged "Love Jihad," (sometimes also referred to as
"Romeo Jihad") first seized widespread media attention in South
India in September 2009, although some argue that the phenomenon has
been going on for years. On September 29, 2009, Kerala's High Court
issued an order for police to investigate the cases of two
college-aged girls allegedly forced to convert to Islam after
marrying Muslim men. Stories spread of an organized plan by groups
of Muslim men to get Hindu and Christian women to fall in love with
them. Reports alleged that the men were given allowances by
unidentified (but ostensibly foreign) sources to woo the women,
marry them, and subsequently force them to convert. (Note:
Arranged marriages are still the norm throughout India.
Western-style betrothals -- known as "love marriages" in India --
are increasingly common in urban areas, but are still the exception.
End note.)

3. (U) While the Kerala Director General of Police has since
reported that there is no evidence of a "Love Jihad" or "Romeo
Jihad" organization, some members of the police, politicians, and
both Hindu and Christian religious groups continue to suspect that
"forced conversions" (ref A) are occurring, and that the culprits
are receiving foreign funding for their efforts. (Comment: The
accusers, often leaders of Hindu nationalist outfits like the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), speak in generalities about
foreign funding for the "Love Jihad," and fail to provide any
credible evidence of foreign involvement. End comment.)

Serial killer vs. Love Jihad

4. (U) The issue picked up steam in the neighboring state of
Karnataka in early October, when several Hindu nationalist, Sangh
Parivar groups claimed that a young woman named "Anitha," missing
since June, was a "Love Jihad" victim. Local police cast some doubt
on this claim when they announced on October 21 that "Anitha" had
been the victim of a serial killer, arrested earlier that day, who
had confessed to poisoning her and 17 other women. According to the
press, a police official who wanted to remain anonymous reportedly
said that he hoped the cracking of the "Anitha" case would "put an
end this 'Love Jihad' controversy once and for all." An hour after
the police announcement, however, Karnataka's High Court ordered an
investigation into the "Love Jihad," forcing the state's police to
continue to commit personnel and resources toward investigating the
alleged conspiracy.

True love or Love Jihad?

5. (U) The October 21 Karnataka High Court's decision to investigate
another "Love Jihad" case, in response to a petition filed by the
parents of a young woman who converted to Islam after marrying a
Muslim man, further buttressed the conspiracy theory in the minds of
many in South India. After the marriage, the parents allege that
the girl was confined to a madrasa and forced to study Islam. These
allegations of "Love Jihad" led authorities to classify the problem
as a potential national security issue; the Karnataka High Court,

CHENNAI 00000045 002 OF 003

for example, wrote that the case had to be investigated because
"issues of national security" were involved, including the unlawful
trafficking of women and girls. (Note: The woman in this case
subsequently defended her marriage in court and said that her
conversion was of her own free will and accused her parents of being
"mentally unstable." End note.)

Religious groups fanning the flames

6. (SBU) Both Hindu and Christian groups in South India are
publicizing stories of "Love Jihad." The Commission for Social
Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC)
reported that there had been 2,868 female victims of the "Love
Jihad" in Kerala from 2006-09. The Commission made several
recommendations to parents through its newsletter, including a
recommendation to monitor children's mobile phones and computers, to
fight this "social evil." We met with Dr. Sajan K. George, National
President of the Global Council of Indian Christians, who was
convinced that there was a concerted effort in South India by Muslim
men to get Christian women to fall in love with them in order to
convert them. He said that his organization was publicly
tight-lipped about the incidents because it did not want to
exacerbate religious tensions in Kerala and Karnataka, which he said
were already high. Dr. George said that his group found it
necessary, however, to warn Christian parents and young girls of the
danger posed by the "Love Jihad" so that they can be better prepared
to resist what many call "charming" young Muslim men involved in the

7. (U) The Sri Ram Sena, a Hindu extremist group responsible for a
number of violent incidents in Karnataka, (ref C) announced plans to
develop "education programs" for women to help them avoid being
trapped by what it calls "nefarious Romeos." On January 24 at a
public rally in Mangalore, the national president of the Bajrang Dal
(a Hindu extremist group), Prakash Sharma, reportedly told the crowd
that "Love Jihad" was a ploy to make Hindu women servants of Muslim
men and deprive Hindu boys of "their share of women for

8. (U) More mainstream Hindu nationalist organizations have also
fueled the fire. The "Organiser", an official publication of the
RSS, published an article in its January 3 edition entitled,
"Sisters, Beware of the Stupid Love Terror!" which incorporates a
wide range of charged, but thinly sourced, allegations. One such
allegation is that although police officials in Kerala have reported
officially that they have found no evidence of an organized "Love
Jihad," many senior police officers remain privately concerned about
groups like "Smart Front." According to the article, this
organization is a Muslim group operating in Muslim institutions "to
promote love affairs" with upper-caste Hindu and Christian women,
particularly those "studying in professional colleges or working in
the information technology (IT) sector."

9. (U) These allegations have forced some in the Muslim community in
Southern India to issue public denials of the existence of any sort
of "Love Jihad" conspiracy. The Muslim Central Committee of
Karnataka's Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have publicly
denied that a "Love Jihad" exists and emphasized that their faith
does not condone forced conversion. According to press reports,
some Muslim leaders, including Committee President K.S. Mohammed
Masood, have alleged that accusations of a "Love Jihad" are an
attempt by certain groups to further blacken the image of the Muslim
community. He emphasized that Islam allows for no concept like
"Love Jihad" and that "forces are trying to divide Muslims and
Hindus by coining the phase 'Love Jihad' in an attempt to
destabilize peace in society and Muslim-Hindu unity."

Statistics suggest lack of evidence for Love Jihad
--------------------------------------------- -----

10. (U) The media and some religious groups have been fueling the
hysteria by making vague statements about large numbers of missing
young women in Karnataka over the last six years, suggesting that
these disappearances are related to the "Love Jihad." Multiple
Hindu extremist groups held a rally at Mangalore's district
headquarters on October 15, alleging that over 3,000 Hindu girls
from the region and more than 30,000 from the rest of the state had
gone missing since the alleged launch of the "Love Jihad" in 2008,
figures that were reportedly repeated on the websites of various

CHENNAI 00000045 003 OF 003

Hindutva organizations. Other Hindutva-leaning groups and
individuals have suggested the number of missing Hindu girls ranges
from 3,000 to 4,000.

11. (U) Police in Karnataka have attempted to shed light on the
apparently wildly exaggerated allegations of missing women.
Official statistics reportedly show that 404 women were reported
missing in 2009, and that police tracked down 332 of them. A local
police superintendent told the press that there were only 57 women
currently missing in his district, and that he suspected most of
them had "committed suicide or eloped."

Official report due in March

12. (U) Karnataka's High Court granted the state's government on
January 19 six more weeks to submit a final investigation report on
the existence of a "Love Jihad" movement in the state. Karnataka's
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Malini Krishnamurthy, is heading
the probe and has constituted a special team to investigate the
matter, demonstrating the seriousness with which the Karnataka
police are treating "Love Jihad" allegations. The final report is
expected during the first week of March.


13. (SBU) While it may be easy for outsiders to ridicule the "Love
Jihad" allegations, the fact that they have gained so much traction
in the popular imagination illuminates the very real paranoia and
social tensions that sometimes exist in relationships among Muslims,
Hindus, and Christians in the region. In some areas, it would be
hugely embarrassing for Hindu parents to reveal to friends and
relatives that their daughter has fallen for a Muslim man, and the
hypothesized existence of a nefarious, foreign-funded organization
that targets innocent Hindu women likely makes it easier for the
parents to explain to themselves and others what has happened.

14. (SBU) The "Love Jihad" brouhaha also illustrates the perceived
threat that many Hindus in the region feel from "forced
conversions," (ref A) and the general encroachment of "alien"
religious forces into what they see as a Hindu religious space.
These perceptions -- and the related tensions -- will likely
continue regardless of the content of Karnataka's official report on
the alleged "Love Jihad." End Comment.


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