Hardoi, Bijnor: Moles allegedly inside courts, notary offices and the police department, monthly briefings and dedicated WhatsApp groups for quick dispensation of information and action. This is how some of the Hindu outfits and vigilante groups are working to keep “a check and prevent Hindu-Muslim” marriages across Uttar Pradesh.
Whether it is the Hindu Jagran Manch, Yogi Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini, the Rashtriya Yuva Vahini or the traditional Hindutva outfits such as the RSS, VHP and the Bajrang Dal, each of them claim to have a network of people at the block, zila and village levels to keep a “strict watch”. They say they intervene as soon as they see Hindu-Muslim couples venture out, let alone approach court to register marriages.
The groups admit to being emboldened by the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, which came into force on 28 November. In at least four of the eight cases that ThePrint reviewed, the FIR was filed at the insistence of these groups.
“This law is a boon. To stop love jihad is our primary work. We have fought for this law, carried out protests, sat on dharnas. After this law, our work has gotten very easy and swift,” Jitendra Bains, a Hindu Jagran Manch leader from Bijnor told ThePrint.
“We feel empowered. The police too is now responding quickly and acting swiftly on our complaints because now it is a direct order from the CM’s office.”
Pawan Rastogi, the zila coordinator of the Bajrang Dal’s Hardoi unit, agrees. “This is just the beginning. This law has not just given us a free hand to carry out our sewa but has pumped our workers with enthusiasm,” he said.
“We have consolidated our teams and expanded our base since this law came into effect. We will make sure no Hindu daughter goes to a Muslim family.”
Regular briefings, moles keeping a ‘hawk’s eye’
Whether it is schools, colleges, restaurants, parks or even courts, the Hindu outfits boast of a network everywhere.
Their goal, Bains says, is “to save Hindu women from Muslim men”. “Hamare jasus har jagah hai, kyuki woh hindutva ki raksha karta hai,” Bains laughs.
The groups claim to have divided their members into groups at the zila, tehsil, block and village levels. In Bijnor, for instance, there are over 3,000 workers associated with the Yuva Morcha. The Vishva Hindu Parishad has 2,000 workers at Shahjahanpur while the Bajrang Dal has over 2,800 workers at Moradabad and Hardoi.
Bains claims his team, “beti bachao”, has a network among lawyers, the police and tehsildars.
“We have developed a network of people in courts which includes tehsildars, court masters, staff at the registrar office and the sub-divisional magistrate’s office, who give us a tip-off in case they see any Hindu-Muslim couple looking for ways to get married, or even exploring a legal way for it,” he says.
“They are all our Hindu men who are associated with our groups. The goal is to not let our women cross over to their religion.”
Zila coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, Monu Bishnoi, who has been very active in Moradabad and also has three cases of kidnapping and rioting against him, too swears by his network. He says that this law was “absolutely necessary”.
“Our aim is to make sure that our women do not go with any Muslim. We try to catch them young,” he says. We have our people spread out everywhere and we can gather at just one call.”
A senior Hindu Yuva Vahini leader, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint that his organisation has planted Hindu men in Muslim groups who provide them with “relevant inputs” .
“Some of our men have taken up Muslim names and are going around in their groups. That is how we get our information and in most cases we are able to alert the woman’s family much in advance,” he said. “We fund their work, their stay. Their job is to give us valuable inputs that we can work on.”
K.D. Sharma, president of the Rashtriya Yuva Vahini, says he has allocated specific roles to his members at all levels.
“Some people are just spotters. They see the couple, do some initial inquiry and put the message on the group,” he says. “Then the action team swings into motion and does their work. In many cases, the woman’s family is contacted first and informed.”
Rajesh Awasthy, zila mantri of the VHP in Shahjahanpur, claims that as soon as his organisation finds out about any such couple, he makes sure that the woman is “picked up” and married off to a Hindu within two days. The Muslim man, he adds, is “thrashed and warned”.
Awasthy played a key role in getting two cases under the “anti-conversion” law registered in Shahjahanpur.
“We have people in the courts, notary offices. As and when a couple goes to the court even to inquire about documents required for registration of marriage or to understand the procedure, the information reaches us,” he says. “We collect our men and reach that place. We then pick up the woman and take her to her house.”
In one of the cases that Awasthy had intervened, a Hindu woman who had gone to the court with her Muslim boyfriend in Katra was ‘picked up’ by the volunteers of the VHP and sent home.
“This is just one instance. Everyday we intervene in such matters. After separating the couple, within two days we get the woman married off to a Hindu from our own group,” Awasthy adds.
“Ismain ladki ki marzi nahi hoti. Hum zabardasti karte hai. Ladki ki sehmati ki koi zarurat bhi nai hai, sirf uske pariwar ki sehmati honi chahiye. (This wedding happens without the woman’s consent. We force it. The woman’s consent is anyway not important. Her family should be on board),” he says.
Most of these Hindu outfits claim to hold regular meetings — sometimes twice a month to decide their course of action.
“All of the workers meet regularly and a briefing is held on how to go around keeping a check and actively keep the police in the loop on any cases of Hindu-Muslim couples,” Bains says.
Pawan Rastogi of the Bajrang Dal says he handles over 205 shakhas. “We have given clear instructions to our workers to keep a watch on schools, colleges, restaurants to see if any of these couples are meeting up,” he says. “If they find anything, they put information on the group and our men reach there to catch them red-handed.”
The ‘Muslim conspiracy’
Sharma, the Rashtriya Yuva Vahini chief, is of the view that these Hindu groups need this solid a network to counter the Muslim community. He alleges that the Muslim community in India receives “foreign funding” to marry Hindu girls, convert them and bear children.
“We need to have a network to counter the network of the Muslim community. If one of their men marries a Hindu Brahmin girl, they get Rs 20 lakh,” he claims. “When they marry a Gupta girl, they get Rs 15 lakh and if they marry a Dait Hindu girl, they get Rs 10 lakh. These countries abroad fund these nefarious ideas and we are here to protect our women.”
The Hindu Sena leader, who did not wish to be named, alleged that madrasas in India offer a “package” for Muslim men to woo Hindu women.
“These Muslims in general have a sick mind. The madrasas provide them with a package to first trap a Hindu girl and then make them pregnant,” he says. “These Muslim men get money for it. For them to get a Hindu woman in their community and impregnate her is the goal.”
According to these Hindu groups, a Muslim man is allegedly “trained” to act like a Hindu, use Hindu symbols to make a woman believe that he is a Hindu and reveal his real identity only after the woman has fallen in love with him.
“They go to temples, wear kalawa (red thread) on their wrists, put tika, to make the Hindu woman believe that he is a Hindu. It is only later when she falls for him, and sometimes they get physical, that he reveals his real identity,” Bains says.
“By that time, the woman is already under his trap. Some men then even use their intimate pictures to extort money.
“The Muslim families train their men to trap a Hindu woman and convert her to Islam,” he alleges. “When a Muslim man traps a Hindu woman, his entire family is involved in this conspiracy. For them, trapping one Hindu woman is like completing one Haj.”
Anubhav Shukla of the Hindu Yuva Vahini agrees. “In 1,000 cases, you may find only one case wherein a Muslim is actually in love with a Hindu woman,” he says. “In the remaining 999, it is part of a conspiracy and that is when our work starts.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.