A controversial theory that some Hindu groups call “Love Jihad” – which claims that many Muslim men are taking part in a plot to seduce Hindu women and convert them – has circulated in India for years, despite lack of evidence. Now a reverse theory – that Hindu men are deliberately trying to seduce Muslim women – is going viral online. It’s called the “Bhagwa Love Trap”, and again, evidence for the claim is scant. But that hasn’t stopped it spilling over into real-world violence.
“It was extremely vile. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” says Maryam, a Muslim woman from northern India, recalling a string of abusive messages she received online.
Maryam – not her real name – was the target of a doxxing attack, having her personal details revealed online. Photographs of her standing beside Hindu men were copied from public social media accounts, and used to allege that she engaged in interfaith relationships – a huge taboo for those attacking her online.
The claims were untrue.
The men in the pictures were friends, not romantic partners, but that didn’t stop her accusers making false allegations. “They said I sleep around with Hindu men. They were abusing my parents, and questioning my upbringing”, she says.
Interfaith relationships are still a huge taboo among conservative Indian families.
Based on the identities of some of the accounts that doxxed her, Maryam believes Muslim men were behind the claims she had fallen victim to the “Bhagwa Love Trap”.
“Bhagwa” means saffron, a colour that has come to be associated with Hindutva. Hindutva is an ideology which – to its critics – promotes a kind of extreme rightwing Hindu nationalism. In this context, “Bhagwa” is being used as synonymous with Hindutva.
The “Bhagwa Love Trap” theory suggests men who believe in Hindutva are trying to seduce Muslim women, and lure them away from their communities. The idea is primarily being pushed by Muslim men, many of whom are fearful the practice is really taking place.
The BBC spoke to owners of accounts advocating this theory and reviewed the examples provided by them. We found no evidence to suggest a conspiracy is playing out on the ground. But the narrative has continued to spread on social media – the phrase has been used more than 200,000 times since March this year.
Source : bbc