Does India Need a Women’s Panel Chief Who Believes in “Love Jihad”?

Gender

Does India Need a Women’s Panel Chief Who Believes in “Love Jihad”?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The National Commission for Women probably has a lot on its plate, considering crimes against women have been on the rise during the last few months of lockdown. Instead, however, the group’s chairperson, Rekha Sharma has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Sharma has sparked off a massive debate after she met with Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and discussed the rise in “love jihad” cases with him. Apart from general conversations on women’s safety, a report said the two discussed the distinction between consensual interfaith marriages and love jihad, with both stressing on the need to prevent the latter.

“Love jihad” as we’ve learnt from the Tanishq ad row, is a conspiracy theory that alleges Muslim men marry women from other religions with the sole purpose to convert them to Islam. As per the central government in February, there have been no cases of “love jihad” reported in our country so far, and the phenomenon is not defined by Indian laws.

The term is often used on the internet to disparage Muslims. However, the fact that the chairperson of the NCW and the Governor of a state would make such claims, was reason enough to outrage. Several called for Sharma’s resignation soon after.

A spokesperson from the Azad Samaj Party said it was just one example of how casteist and communal Sharma was, and alleged that she was openly serving hate in society.

Hours later, the issued had snowballed into a massive controversy, with several prominent social media users digging out the chairperson’s past tweets, many of which were misogynistic and Islamophobic in nature.

Sharma later locked her Twitter account, and was accused of deleting a number of tweets overnight, but not before social media users got access.

In a number of these tweets, Sharma is seen criticising other women, bashing feminism and making personal and political attacks. As calls for her to be sacked grew, several screenshots of her various biting remarks were doing the rounds of the internet.

As the controversy picks up steam, chances are we’re going to hear a lot about Rekha Sharma in the next few days. Hopefully, at this point, better sense will prevail and the NCW’s focus will shift from the “love jihad” conspiracy theory to more pressing issues.

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