New Delhi: The assault on a Muslim youth and his two brothers, allegedly by members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has once again brought into focus right-wing groups’ fight against what they call “love jihad”.
Over the last year, these organisations have come up with new ways to “keep a tab” on “love jihad” so they can intervene and put an end to interfaith relationships. The latest weapon in the VHP’s arsenal is a network of spies who work as restaurant employees across Western UP.
“We have had great success in stopping the scourge of ‘love jihad’ in Western UP. This is primarily because we get information as soon as we hear about a potential relationship between a suspicious Muslim man and a Hindu girl. In fact, even the cops are befuddled! They don’t know how we get information before they do,” said a beaming Vivek Premi, VHP convener of Shamli, Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat districts.
The organisation, he said, had created an information network among restaurant employees such as waiters, cashiers and kitchen staff across the communally sensitive, riot-scarred districts of Western Uttar Pradesh. And if Premi is to be believed, the strategy seems to be working. “In the last 15 days, we have caught four cases of 'love jihad' in Shamli. Two of them were at restaurants.”
“First, we thought of approaching restaurant owners. But we thought they wouldn’t help us out because they would not want commotion at their establishments. So we turned to employees. We approached waiters, cashiers, kitchen staff and cleaners. Some were worried because they would lose their jobs if their bosses found out they were helping us. So we promised them anonymity. Like journalists have sources, we do too,” said 24-year-old Premi, who shot to infamy after a video of his beating and parading a Muslim man in Shamli went viral in June 2015.
He added, “Restaurant employees are a very valuable resource for us. They have not been officially inducted as our members since that would mean restaurant owners would find out who they are. But they play an important role in the organisation nonetheless. We have eyes and ears in at least 50% of the restaurants in Shamli district alone. We also have our people who work at roadside dhabas on highways. When they see an odd looking couple, they slip out quietly and give us a call. Our boys reach there in no time.”
In addition to restaurant employees, these organisations rely on college students and youth spread across the region. These students are connected via social media platforms such as Whatsapp, which helps the VHP get “information on love jihad” quickly.