Someone answered the call. After introducing myself, I asked if I could talk to Sajjad (name changed). A woman on the other side asked what it was about. The ‘love jihad case’, I said. She hung up abruptly. I tried to reach him again, but the calls went unanswered. But just as I tried reaching out to others booked under cases of ‘love jihad’, the phone rang again—Sajjad was calling. He promptly asked, “What do you want now? Haven’t you people destroyed my life already?” After a little cajoling, he agreed to talk.
“I was madly in love with a girl outside my religion, and so was she. That was my crime. We had been planning to get married for long. In 2020, some vigilante groups got to know about our relationship; they asked me to end the affair, and also informed the girl’s family,” Sajjad tells Outlook. The girl was immediately confined to her home and not allowed to step out. “In December that year, we eloped in the hope of getting married. But our happiness was short-lived. The right-wing vigilantes demanded my arrest. My family was dragged in. We finally had to return to our village in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh,” he adds. Used extensively by right-wing Hindu groups, the term ‘love jihad’ denotes an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into marriage and religious conversion.