Actor Naseeruddin Shah’s Comment On ‘Love Jihad’, Reported As Important News In Media, Is An Ill-Informed Rant 

Swati Goel Sharma

Jan 25, 2021, 02:55 PM | Updated 05:02 PM IST

Actor Naseeruddin Shah.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah.
  • Naseeruddin Shah citing his personal story in ‘love jihad’ debate is indeed laughable.
  • It is also no surprise that Shah and his ilk maintain total silence on the many brutal killings across India of Hindu men by families of Muslim women they were in relationship with.
  • Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah has called Uttar Pradesh’s anti-forced conversion law, loosely called ‘love jihad’ law, a “tamasha” in a recent video.

    His views have been reported by several prominent English publications including by news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).

    “I am really angry at the way in which the society is being divided, such as the ‘love jihadtamasha which is going on in UP. Firstly, the people who have coined this phrase, don’t know the meaning of jihad. Secondly, I don’t believe anyone is so stupid to believe that one day the population of Muslims will overtake that of Hindus in this country. Muslims will have to produce babies at an unimaginable rate to have a population more than Hindus. I don’t think anyone believes in this. This whole ‘love jihadtamasha has been created to put a stop to the social interaction between Hindus and Muslims and to stigmatise it, so that they don’t even think of inter-faith marriages,” Shah has said.

    He is seen making the comment in a five-minute video uploaded on the YouTube page of Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a “civilian campaign” by Harsh Mander, a Left-wing “activist” with questionable associations and body of work.

    Shah makes several sweeping statements in the short video, where he also touches upon cattle-related killings and his marriage to actor Ratna Pathak as a shining example of interfaith harmony.

    Shah says the new UP law is being used for harassment and to create “havoc”.

    “Innocents are being caught, harassed and beaten up. The police arrive on a happy occasion like a wedding and catch the bride and groom and later realise that they are both Muslims. And then the police don’t even think it’s necessary for them to apologise for their mistake. This is not the world that I had dreamt of,” he says.

    No Need For The Law?

    One of the primary problems in Shah’s statements is his lack of knowledge about the cases filed under the new law.

    As of 28 December, which marked a month of the new law, 14 cases had been filed under it across UP. A report by The Indian Express of the 14 cases said that in seven of nine cases where the woman’s statement was recorded before the magistrate, she supported the charges in the first information reports (FIRs).

    The report said that out of 14 cases, 13 involved Muslim men and Hindu women, and that in the remaining four ‘love jihad’ cases, the police were unable to find the woman in one case after she went missing.

    If anything, this statistic overwhelmingly supports the need for such a law.

    Innocents Getting Caught?

    Shah further says that “innocents are being caught”. He is most likely referring to the Moradabad case where a man named Rashid was taken into custody and sent for judicial remand after parents of a Hindu woman named Pinky filed an FIR against Rashid for kidnapping and trying to forcibly convert their daughter to Islam.

    The man was promptly released after Pinky, in her statement to the magistrate (recorded under Section 164 of CrPC) said that she had eloped with Rashid and had a nikah with him willingly.

    If Shah is indeed using this case to say that “innocents are being caught”, it exposes his lack of understanding of how law works.

    Is he saying that the police should have refused to file an FIR based on the complaint by Pinky’s parents? Is he saying that the police should have made no efforts to find Pinky who her parents said had been kidnapped? Is he staying that the police should not have brought Rashid, who was named a suspect in the FIR, to the police station?

    As this correspondent has explained in this earlier piece, the reason why Rashid had to spend more time in jail than he should have is that the Moradabad police failed to do its job in time. In such cases, the police are required to record the woman’s statement at the police station immediately followed by her statement in front of the magistrate. In this case, the police took two weeks to do this job. Several reports quoted senior police officers of Moradabad as attributing the delay to their “busy schedule”.

    Even if the new law had not come into effect, the police would have still booked Rashid for kidnapping or related charges on complaint by the parents. It’s quite possible that the police would have still delayed recording the woman’s statement.

    What is clearly a lapse in police procedure is thus no evidence that the law itself has in-built harassment written into it. As this correspondent mentioned in the earlier report, such lapse, unfortunately, is rather rampant and certainly does not affect only Muslims. As many as 65 girls rescued from trafficking two years ago were recently found to be staying in a government shelter home as the police had not recorded their Section 164 statement in time.

    Are There No Real Victims?

    Shah says ‘love jihad’ is a tamasha.

    In the absence of a legal or dictionary definition of ‘love jihad’, let’s assume that Shah is using the definition given by Left-wing media houses that have been key peddlers of the ‘innocents-are-being-harassed-under-UP-law’ narrative which Shah is repeating.

    This definition says that ‘love jihad’ is a conspiracy theory by Hindutva groups that Indian Muslims target and convert Indian Hindu women in order to emerge as a majority population group in India to reclaim political and social power.

    The problem with dismissal of this theory as a ‘baseless conspiracy’, often accompanied with rehearsed anger as in the case of Shah, is that it invisibalises real victims. In fact, it completely discredits the testimonies by Hindu victims who have accused Muslim men of targetting them for their religion.

    Several Hindu women have filed police cases against Muslim men tor trapping them with a false name and identity, and harassing and violating them with a motive of converting them to Islam or just humiliating them for their faith. Read here, here and here.

    It is no one’s case that all Indian Muslims are involved in targetting Hindu women for a larger demographic goal. To the best of the knowledge of this correspondent, no major Hindu group or political leader has pushed this theory either.

    Shah thus seems to be sweeping aside a non-serious allegation, while sweeping with it all individual cases of Muslim men targetting Hindu women.

    Only a week ago, two Hindu women, who were kidnapped from Basti area of eastern UP, were rescued from a house in western UP. They were found with a Muslim man who, as per the police, had brought them on the pretext of job but planned to traffic them, to eventually get them converted to Islam.

    One-Way Acceptance Of Interfaith Relationships

    Shah says that the ‘love jihad tamasha’ is an attempt to stop interaction of Hindus and Muslims, and all interfaith marriages.

    Shah’s statement is no different that the rhetorical argument given by Muslim groups in the run-up to the Partition in 1930s and 1940s when Hindu (and even Parsi) groups were protesting conversion of women by Muslim men, which saw a sharp rebuke by Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar.

    In his seminal 1945 book Pakistan, or The Partition of India’, Ambedkar wrote, “…the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other.”

    Ambedkar, who summed up the issue with remarkable clarity and honesty, is most likely to have laughed at Shah citing his own marriage with Ratna Pathak as a “healthy precedent” of interfaith harmony.

    It may be recalled here that Naseeruddin Shah’s first wife converted to Islam to marry him. Manara Sikri, 15 years older than Shah, changed her name to Parveen Murad) for marrying Shah, who ironically describes himself as a “non-religious person”. Their daughter is named Heeba. Shah and Ratna Pathak’s children are named Vivaan and Imaad.

    Shah citing his personal story in ‘love jihad’ debate is indeed laughable. It is also no surprise that Shah and his ilk maintain total silence on the many brutal killings across India of Hindu men by families of Muslim women they were in relationship with. On the first day of this new year, a 16-year-old Hindu boy was found murdered in Haryana by the family members of a Muslim girl he had gone to wish on the New Year eve.

    Shah’s statements to Karwan-e-Mohammad thus are nothing but an ill-informed rant far away from the ground reality.

    This correspondent would not have spared time and effort to counter this rant had it not been for the tragic reality that the likes of Naseeruddin Shah, only by virtue of being popular among masses by name and face, are elevated to the status of ‘intellectuals’ by an influential section of the media.

    Their words reach a large number of people, who take those words far more seriously than they should be taken. Unfortunately, the reach of Shah’s words is much larger than that of the victims.

    Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.