By Maya Palit
It’s been just over two weeks since Hindu Yuva Vahini activists stormed into a house in Meerut and hauled a Muslim man and Hindu woman to the police because they suspected it was a case of ‘love jihad’, that the man was trying to convert the woman to Islam. But if you think they were neurotic outliers, think again, because this paranoia about conversion has been institutionalised to the extent where a school can openly voice its fears that Muslim boys will try to ‘woo’ Hindu girls.
Apparently Rishabh Academy, a co-educational, English medium school in Meerut, has ordered ‘gender segregation’ in its classes — it’s not clear what exactly that entails — to nip the practice of love jihad in the bud. The secretary of the school has been quoted by reports saying: “This is being done for the safety of girls and to prevent love jihad. Muslim boys take on names similar to Hindus, befriend girls, tie kalavas on their wrists and try to woo girls. I cannot tolerate this in school premises. Moreover, these days nobody likes if a boy from one community touches a girl from another community.” (Note the emphasis on ‘these days’).
If his remarks sound surreal, there’s more where that came from. Students claimed that they were asked to get a haircut like Yogi Adityanath, although the secretary later clarified that all he meant by the reference to the newly appointed Chief Minister was that the students should have close-cropped hair. Students were also informed that the school wouldn’t tolerate beards, because of infallible logic — the school it isn’t a madrassa where you go to perform namaz. Clearly no one needs anti-Romeo squads to intimidate people while shouting about love jihad, because if this Meerut school has the backing to carry out this kind of brazen discrimination without worrying about backlash, it’s doing pretty well on its own.