A video surfaced on social media on April 7, 2023, featuring a man addressing a crowd outside a mosque in Farooq Nagar, Nagpur. Facing the gathering that emerges from the mosque, he talks about the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’. Flanking him on both sides are men holding banners, one of which says, ‘Save daughters, make them study their faith. Our girls are getting converted because they are going astray from the path of their faith’.
‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ (BLT), a conspiracy theory that has gained popularity in certain Muslim groups, revolves around the notion that Hindu men enter relationships with Muslim women with the alleged aim of enticing them away from Islam and persuading them to embrace the Sanatan Dharam. It is a counter-conspiracy theory to the much talked about ‘Love Jihad’ narrative, which holds that Muslim men seduce Hindu women in order to coerce them into converting to Islam. Though the Union government and the National Commission for Women have said that they have no data on ‘Love Jihad’, several BJP-ruled states have given their stamp on the theory by enacting anti-conversion laws and taking other measures.
The BLT theory, on the other hand, has received sustained support through on-ground outreach programmes, speeches by religious leaders, social media campaigns with videos, and news reports churned out by influencers. Asked about his take on the theory, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, however, told Alt News, “Mohabbat ke mamle main kisi ko taang adane ki zaroorat nahi.” (No one should interfere in matters of love).
What the man in the Nagpur video says gives us a fair idea about how the BLT conspiracy theory is gaining ground. He says,
“I appeal to all the brothers, the banners that you see here are not here just for the sake of it, they are here to wake you up from your neglectful sleep. We are all aware that our daughters are getting apostate (murtad), it is our responsibility to protect our daughters. We should counsel them, protect their faith and make them aware of how many girls are getting apostate. There are strategies in their ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ on how to approach our daughters, trap them and make them leave our faith. It is your, mine and everyone’s responsibility to protect our daughters and to do this we have to wake up from our stupor…”
Payment, Job, Property as Reward: Maulana Sajjad Nomani
One of the popular videos circulating on social media features Maulana Sajjad Nomani, an executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. In this 7-minute clip, the cleric asserts that around 8 lakh Muslim women have renounced their faith and ran away with Hindu individuals, labelling these women as murtad (apostates). He further claims that the RSS has formed a large team aimed at training Hindu youth for three to six months, equipping them with Urdu language skills and other etiquette, so that they can lure Muslim women. According to his statements, these Hindu men are incentivized with a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh if they succeed in persuading a Muslim girl to abandon Islam. Additionally, they are offered various benefits such as property and employment. The cleric suggests that millions of Hindu youths have now joined this campaign. The remarks were made by Maulana Sajjad Nomani on 31 December 2021 and the speech is available on his YouTube channel.
It appears that Maulana Sajjad Nomani’s sermon draws inspiration from a fabricated letter attributed to the RSS, which has been circulating for some time. This false letter outlines 12 specific strategies for ‘entrapping’ Muslim women, claiming that the RSS would provide a 15-day training program on converting these women and assimilating them into the folds of “Sanatan Dharma”. This letter was recently debunked by Alt News when it was trending with the hashtag #BhagwaLoveTrap or #Bhagwa_Love_Trap. Furthermore, the figure that a grant of Rs 2.5 lakh would be offered to support these couples in establishing their new households, appears to have been taken from an offer made by the members of Akhil Bharat Hindu Yuva Morcha in 2018.
Another religious leader, Maulana Tauqeer Raza, during an interview with ABP Ganga in early March, echoed a similar claim about Muslim women being ‘entrapped’ by Hindu men. According to him, organizations like Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have allegedly offered rewards, including a sum of Rs 2 lakh and other benefits, to Hindu men who succeed in trapping Muslim women. He says that according to a survey, 10 lakh Muslim women have been either seduced, trapped, or kidnapped by Hindu men. Neither Maulana Sajjad Nomani nor Maulana Tauqeer Raza provides the source of these data in their statements. In an interview with Millat Times in April end, Maulana Sajjad Nomani made a clarification regarding his earlier statement. He expressed retracting his previous statement as he was told by an acquaintance that the figure he mentioned in his sermons was wrong. But he expressed that the Muslim community should be concerned even if one girl was being converted, as these allegations should not be taken lightly.
In addition to the aforementioned statements, numerous videos on YouTube have gained thousands of views by discussing the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’. These videos are typically presented by individuals who engage in lengthy monologues accompanied by dramatic music.
Secular Miya Bhai (SMB)
This YouTube channel boasts of 1.5 million subscribers and has produced multiple videos focusing on ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’. One of the earliest videos found on this subject was uploaded in September 2021, titled “Musalman Sixth Generation Ki Jung Har Rahe Part 1 | Love Trap se Bache,” which garnered over 2 Lakh views.
In this video, the creator asserts that Muslims are losing in the realm of sixth-generation warfare, a psychological battle where the goal is not to capture lands but minds. The video contains a voice-over that launches into a diatribe about the deceptive nature of this warfare, without providing concrete data or evidence. It discusses the concept of “false empowerment” facilitated by social media and highlights instances of non-Muslim men approaching Muslim women under the pretext of learning about Islam, only to gradually manipulate their thoughts.
Within the same month, the uploader shared two additional videos on the same topic. Similar to the first video, the second one lacks substantial content and primarily stirs fear related to the said psychological warfare. The third video in the series presents a nine-step plan aimed at safeguarding the community against the ‘love trap’, which includes suggestions like forming a vigilante team to monitor and address such cases within their respective areas. Between September 2021 and May 2023, this channel produced approximately 36 videos on the subject, with the highest number of uploads occurring in May 2023.
The chart below illustrates the monthly distribution of uploaded videos on the subject.
On May 3, 2023, the channel Haque Media shared a video titled ‘Bhagwa Love Trap Conspiracy Or Myth?‘ The host, Faizul Bari, introduces the programme as a presentation to viewers based on ‘extensive research’. During the broadcast, the anchor discusses numerous cases where Muslim women allegedly eloped with Hindu men, converted to Hinduism, and subsequently faced abandonment or even death at the hands of their spouses after a few months. The anchor highlights the alarming nature of these incidents and raises the question if there is a concerted narrative behind them. To elaborate on this, the anchor presents various statements given by Hindu leaders over the years.
This specific video is of particular importance in the context of this report because it provides an overview of the cases and speeches that are being utilized to promote and substantiate the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ theory. It emphasizes a minimum of 19 instances where Muslim women involved in interfaith relationships have experienced deception, murder, or abandonment by their partners. Additionally, it sheds light on at least 17 occurrences where Hindu leaders or Hindu youth have made derogatory comments about Muslim women or have announced reward programs for Hindu youths who manage to marry Muslim women. Furthermore, it touches upon notable online incidents such as the ‘Bulli bai’ and ‘Sulli deals’ GitHub applications, which garnered significant media coverage. Interestingly, the host also mentions the figures mentioned by Maulana Sajjad Nomani and Maulana Tauqeer Raza. The video portrays these events as the inception of an ongoing campaign, highlighting the need for a defence mechanism for Muslim women against such occurrences.
In the latter half of the video, the host says that Muslim women from all walks of life are becoming victims of this campaign. He claims that Muslim women from strict households are being trapped through mobile games that have inbuilt chat features.
Speaking to Scroll about ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’, Faizul Bari said that he saw it as his duty to warn people “about the repercussions of such a relationship. I see it from a religious point of view. It is my religious duty to stop people from indulging in sin.” He added, “We should also speak against interfaith relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women because it causes a feeling of anxiety in Hindu society.”
This channel uploaded a video on May 23, 2023, titled, “सरकारी भगवा लव ट्रैप, पूरी प्लानिंग और षड्यंत्र के साथ मुसलमान लड़कियों को फसाया जा रहा जाल में!”. This video, too, contains long monologues with graphics presented in between. In the introductory segment of the video, the host, Muhammed Raza, introduces the term ‘Sarkari Bhagwa Love Trap’.
He begins by narrating an incident from Bareilly where a railway staffer, Ashish, was ‘caught’ with a Muslim woman at a guest house. He says that it was allegedly found that Ashish had explicit photos of multiple women in his phone. According to media reports, members of a Muslim organization received a ‘tip-off’ about the couple and, upon investigating, found the information to be credible. The host uses this example to show what he calls the ‘sarkari’ dimension of the conspiracy. He says that films like ‘The Kerala Story,’ which received endorsement from the Prime Minister and the home minister, are utilized to propagate the concept of ‘reverse Love Jihad’. According to his explanation, it is reverse ‘Love Jihad’ because first the conspiracy theory of ‘Love Jihad’ is established and then the Hindu youth are being encouraged to avenge it.
Reflecting on the Barielly incident, the host asserts that the Hindu community brazenly engages in such actions. He attributes the responsibility for these incidents to the Muslim girls and their parents. According to the host, these girls are fully aware of the faith of their partners, yet they distance themselves from their own community. He further emphasizes that the fault also lies with the girls’ parents, stating that granting them freedom is not inherently wrong, however, some girls take advantage of this freedom and education. The host suggests that if these girls feel tempted, they should simply request their parents to arrange their marriages.
Muslim girls who wear jeans end up in a room with Hindu boys
The host also makes the observation that these girls possess commendable academic achievements, which leads their parents to be lenient and not object to their abandoning the burqa. He says he has personally witnessed numerous cases in his own vicinity where parents would disapprove of their son wearing jeans. However, now the same parents allow their daughters to wear hijabs and jeans, engage in dancing, and share their performances on social media. The host says that daughters of these parents eventually discover their own children in private rooms (he names a popular hotel room aggregator platform) with men from the Hindu community.
The host then proceeds to discuss how law enforcement works in different ways based on the religion of the perpetrator during the Modi regime. He asserts that if a Muslim man is caught with a Hindu woman, he is immediately subjected to mob violence, whereas if a Muslim woman is caught with a Hindu man, society tends to portray it as the Muslim community harassing the girl, leading to complaints being filed against members of the Muslim community. The host highlights an incident that apparently occurred in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, and expresses his view that these girls are shameless, as they confront the mob and file cases against them. (We could not find any news report on this said incident; just an unverified video uploaded on Twitter.)
He also talks about another case where a Muslim girl stood up for herself, and continues to put the blame on these girls and other influencers with Muslim names, suggesting that these influencers serve as their source of inspiration. Towards the end, the host brings attention to a tragic incident where a Muslim girl involved in a live-in relationship with her Hindu partner in Noida was murdered by him.
In a telephonic conversation with Alt News, Mr Raza summarized his perspective on ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’. “BLT is an organised effort because Hindutva leaders over the years have publicly announced reward programmes and other incentives for Hindu youth if they marry Muslim women. There are multiple Telegram chats of Hindu youth that have gone viral where they are seen making disgusting remarks towards Muslim women. This systematic promotion occurs due to the authorities’ tendency to swiftly initiate ‘investigation’ when a Muslim man marries a Hindu woman, while no action is taken against those individuals who announce such reward programs,” said Raza.
Raza also expressed his opposition to moral policing and emphasized the importance of adhering to legal and constitutional processes. “I am on the side of the Constitution and I believe no one should be harassed,” he added.
Twitter and Instagram Campaigners
A noticeable and coordinated effort to amplify the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ theory is evident on social media platforms. It involves prominent users who amplify news reports of interfaith couples being targeted by mobs, as well as participate in harassing female voices that raise objections to these moral policing activities. Additionally, certain users engage in doxxing and contribute to the perpetuation of this narrative through repetitive amplification. They share graphics depicting the perceived ‘fate’ of Muslim women in interfaith relationships or distribute religious sermons that ‘warn’ the community about perceived ‘forces’ responsible for luring Muslim girls away.
For instance, a user with 44,000 followers shared a tweet about ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’, which garnered close to 1.5 lakh views on the platform. It is worth noting that this same user had previously disseminated a fabricated letter attributed to the RSS, which outlined various strategies for Hindu men to Muslim women and even mentioned monetary rewards for these couples. In the same month, this user tweeted news reports about interfaith relationships where Muslim women were either deceived or murdered. He has also tweeted a two-year-old video of Hindutva youth leader Sukhdev Sahdev who talked about strategically targeting Muslim women.
As of June 7, there is an account that has gained over 2,000 followers despite having only 70 tweets. This account frequently shares information about interfaith couples, sometimes even revealing their social media profiles or residential addresses. It is important to note that this is not an isolated case, as there are several other accounts engaging in similar activities. Furthermore, these accounts relentlessly target and harass anyone who criticizes their campaign, using social media hashtags to direct their attacks towards these individuals. Below is a collage of some of the tweets made by these accounts:
On Instagram, a search for hashtags such as #Bhagwa_Love_Trap, #BhagwaLoveTrap, or #भगवा_लव_ट्रैप reveals a significant number of posts. Among these posts are various content types, including details about interfaith couples, infographics highlighting the risks associated with ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’, and other related material. It’s worth noting that some of these posts date back to December 2021, indicating the longevity and prevalence of this type of content on the platform. In the past, News Meter had published a story regarding an Instagram page named ‘Jhamunda_official._’. This account was known for collecting information about Muslim women seen in public places with men of different faith, and subsequently sharing these details online.
Below is a collage of some of the posts that can be found on Instagram using these hashtags.
On-ground Campaigns, Moral Policing and Arrests
On April 7 and April 14, two videos filmed in Nagpur surfaced on Facebook, featuring individuals holding banners outside a mosque and delivering speeches. In one of the videos, a man expresses concern about daughters having phones protected with passwords. He suggests that worldly education should only be imparted if the safety of one’s child is ensured. He also urges the youth to be vigilant of such development and provide counselling to girls who stray away from the community.
On 24 May, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, media outlets reported that the police registered FIR against 10 unidentified individuals under section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The charges were related to the distribution of pamphlets containing objectionable content targeting the RSS and the Bajrang Dal on the night of May 20. Subsequently, on May 26, it was reported that five individuals involved in the incident had been identified and arrested. According to police, the pamphlets contained statements alleging that “attempts are being made to turn 10 lakh Muslim girls into Kafirs (non-believers)” and that 800 Muslim girls in Amravati city of Maharashtra were subjected to conversion.
As of June 5, Alt News has documented 31 cases of moral policing perpetrated by Muslim men across different regions of the country. The highest number of incidents occurred in Uttar Pradesh, with 12 cases, followed by Telangana with 4 cases and Madhya Pradesh with 3 cases. The exact locations of four instances remain unverified. It’s important to note that this data has been manually collected by monitoring accounts associated with the propagation of the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ conspiracy, and the actual numbers may vary.
In addition to the five arrests made in Indore, there were reports on May 27 about six individuals being apprehended for harassing a man who was out for dinner with his female Muslim friend. Similarly, on the same day, two Muslim youths, both aged 20, were arrested for harassing a Hindu man who was accompanied by his female Muslim friend at an eatery in Karnataka. In Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, a shop owner was arrested following a complaint filed by a Muslim woman who was allegedly harassed and threatened by a group of individuals while she was at a market place with a male Hindu friend. According to a report by The Quint, six individuals were apprehended in Meerut for their involvement in the harassment and intimidation of a Hindu man on May 13. The incident occurred while he was riding a bike with a Muslim woman. Similarly, in Muzzafarnagar, four men were arrested for harassing a Hindu man who was accompanied by his female Muslim friend.
The Anxiety of the Muslim Community and the Agency of Muslim Women
Undoubtedly, in recent years, Muslim women have unquestionably become targets of Hindutva groups through various means such as speeches, video skits, reward programs, anti-Hijab campaigns, digital auctions such as ‘Bulli bai’ and ‘Sulli deals’, and unchecked sexual violence on social media. It is these incidents that are used to justify the Bhagwa Love Trap conspiracy.
For example, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, a video addressing the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ highlights 17 instances where Hindu leaders or youth have made derogatory remarks about Muslim women or have openly declared reward programs for Hindu youth who successfully marry Muslim women. Such statements and announcements have been made in public settings and are of grave concern to society at large. These incidents have instilled a sense of panic within the Muslim community, and the reactions to these events are evident for all to see. In fact, a prominent social activist Khalida Parveen, with extensive experience in grassroots-level work, recently took to Twitter to validate the existence of the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ conspiracy, while labelling its counterpart, ‘Love Jihad,’ as mere propaganda.
We reached out to Ms. Khalida Parveen to understand the motivation behind her tweet. According to her, the legitimacy of the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ narrative stems from ‘the persistent urging of Hindu youth by influential Hindutva figures to ensnare Muslim girls’. These figures openly declare reward programs and utilize various strategies to amplify their message.
“See, interfaith relationships have been happening for ages, I am least bothered about it. My concern is teenage girls getting trapped. Recently, in my own professional capacity, I have been actively involved in counselling teenage Muslim girls who find themselves entangled in relationships with Hindu boys, only to be subsequently abandoned under the pretext of mere ‘time pass’”, said Ms. Parveen. She added, “These households often have their own internal challenges, which push these girls to seek alternative paths, leading them into these precarious situations. In some instances, these girls even get coerced into substance abuse.”
It is unclear how these teenage relationships prove the existence of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’, as it is not new for teenagers to get into relationships against the will of their parents, then break up or in extreme cases, get into substance abuse through various means.
When we inquired about the cases of moral policing occurring across the country, she said consenting adults should not be subjected to harassment. “At best, these men should offer counselling to these adult women and can inform their families about their daughter. I believe the families should also keep their doors open and not abandon these women when they realise that their life is going to be miserable. This way, they have a reliable support system to fall back on in case of any adversities within their relationship,” said Ms. Parveen.
Furthermore, she recommended that men who encounter such situations should refrain from recording videos and circulating them on social media, instead, they should engage in direct conversations with the families without resorting to physical harassment and intimidation which do not yield any positive result. Above all, she stressed one should not interfere in adult women’s choices and leave them free. “After all it’s their life and they are accountable for their deeds in front of Allah,” said Ms. Parveen.
We tried to reach out to Maulana Sajjad Nomani, but his son convyeed to Alt News that interviewing the Maulana was not feasible.
It’s not that all clerics are on the same page on the BLT issue. In an interview with The Hindu, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, the president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said, “This kind of propaganda is being done by the Sangh Parivar. Some of our emotional orators spice up their speeches with this, which is harmful for Muslims. If something like this does happen, then it is due to co-education and workplaces where there are both men and women working, and this has happened in the past too.”
‘Moral Policing Must be Unconditionally Condemned’
In a telephonic conversation with Alt News, Ghazala Wahab, the editor of FORCE Magazine and the author of the book ‘Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India’, said that there is no justification for moral policing.
“I object to the term moral policing because it provides a cover of morality to criminal activity. All these acts of vigilantism against women in public places must be regarded as sexual harassment or molestation. No one has any right to heckle and photograph any woman. This harassment in the name of moral policing must be unconditionally condemned. It is important to note that this issue is not limited to Muslim women alone. Over the past 15-20 years, Hindu vigilante groups have been harassing young individuals on the Valentine’s Day. This behaviour has persisted because law enforcement agencies do not take serious action against these criminals. They should be booked under sexual harassment laws and made examples of so that no one gets tempted to become the custodian of a woman’s morality,” said Wahab.
“When a woman, regardless of her religious background, chooses to go out with a man, she is already in a vulnerable position due to the fear of retribution from their parents, neighbours, and extended family. This vulnerability stems from the conservative nature of our society, which is quick to put a woman’s character under the microscope at the first opportunity. Instead of fostering an inclusive and secure environment for young individuals to socialize, we are inadvertently putting their lives at risk by endorsing such vigilantism. It is important to understand that such public naming and shaming can traumatize individuals to the point of self-harm or compel them to flee from home due to the fear instilled by their parents or extended family.”
“Parents also have a role to play. They should perceive these incidents as direct attacks on their children and stand up for them, instead of blaming their children for bringing shame to the family,” she added.
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