Indian channel slammed over 'love jihad claims' as 'Muslim men participate in Hindu festival'

Indian channel slammed over 'love jihad claims' as 'Muslim men participate in Hindu festival'
4 min read
05 October, 2022
Popular Indian news channel AajTak ran a segment claiming Muslim men were attending Hindu festivals with the aim of 'befriending' Hindu women.
Men, women and children from all faiths regularly participate in Navratri festivities [Getty]

A mainstream Indian news channel has been slammed after claiming that Indian Muslim men attended the Hindu festival of Navratri in order to "befriend" Hindu women, further amplifying the 'love jihad' conspiracy theory, according to activists. 

AajTak, one of India’s biggest Hindi news channels with hundreds of millions of viewers, ran a segment where the anchor Sudhir Chaudhary claimed, with little evidence, that Muslim men changed their names and took part in Navratri celebrations, a Hindu festival involving traditional dances.

'Love jihad' is a pernicious falsehood generally spread to demonise and alienate Muslims in India. Its proponents claim that Muslim men lure Hindu women away from their families and marry them with the aim of converting them to Islam.  

Chaudhary goes on to falsely claim that it is only Muslim men that participate in the festivities and not Muslim women.  The New Arab has reached out to AajTak for comment.

Muslims, who have often participated in Hindu festivals in the past, have been barred by organisers and regional governments from attending Navratri celebrations in several parts of India following the spread of such falsehoods. 

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The video has been roundly criticised online. Journalist Alishan Jaffrey accused Chaudhary of "mainstreaming the violent far-right, covertly tagging Muslim businesses as unlawful, and actively excluding Muslims from any kind of social activity".

Hindutva Watch, a research group that monitors reports of attacks on religious minorities in India, tweeted:  “@aajtak anchor Sudhir Chaudhary once again ran a primetime show where he demonised Muslims and promoted the right-wing conspiracy theory of Love Jihad. The channel’s viewership runs in hundreds of millions. Imagine the scale of anti-Muslim  hate!”

Sudhir Chaudhary has regularly promoted perceived anti-Muslim sentiments on his show before. Last year, he has claimed that Muslims want to "break India into little pieces" by using the "weapon of jihad, which comes in many forms - an ideological jihad and strong (physical) jihad".

Multiple videos of right-wing Hindu extremists spreading "anti-Muslim rhetoric" have surfaced online over the past few days. 

A video being widely shared on Twitter shows singer Dharmendra Pandey calling for Hindus to take up arms and prepare to create a 'Hindu country' at a religious event.

Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict research at Sweden's Uppsala University, shared the video saying: "This is why India is the No1 country in the world that is likely to witness a genocide."

“Since 2014, explicit advocacy for violence and hatred by political leaders, public officials, and government-aligned media houses towards Muslims has become commonplace and goes unpunished. The narrative pushed by them is often false, abusive, threatening and insulting to Muslims," Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India's board told The New Arab.

 "Although the Indian law prohibits the advocacy of hatred on religious lines, in reality these provisions are not utilized to protect minorities, but instead are selectively used to target them or human rights defenders who speak against these abuses. At the highest levels of leadership in the government, both the Prime Minister and the Indian government have done little to show that they disapprove of such widespread advocacy for violence and hatred against religious minorities. This is deplorable, and indicates a weakening of rule of law in India,” he added.

Violent attacks against India's Muslim minority, which makes up around 15 percent of India's population, have skyrocketed since 2014 when Narendra Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.