In India, boy meets girl, proposes — and gets accused of jihad


A civil rights activist holds a placard during a 2020 demonstration in Bengaluru, India, condemning the proposal in several states of laws against so-called “love jihad.” That’s an unfounded conspiracy theory spread by Hindu nationalists who accuse Muslim men of wooing Hindu women in order to force them to convert to Islam. PHOTO/Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Inside a former army barracks, Simran Sagar sings a Hindi love song as she makes tea for her fiancé on what they hoped would be their wedding day. But their marriage keeps getting delayed.

Her voice echoes off the cold cement walls. “Like a shooting star that falls from the sky, our lives fell apart, darling,” the lyrics go.

This is not how they imagined their first home together: a mattress on the floor, a hot plate to cook on and a police guard stationed out front. It’s a secret safe house in India’s capital, 200 miles from the village where they grew up.

Sagar, 22, is from India’s Hindu majority, and her 26-year-old fiancé Mohammed Shameem is Muslim. They’reamong hundreds or possibly thousands of interfaith couples who’ve crossed state lines in recent months to try to marry far from home, according to activists helping them.

The couples are fleeing laws that prohibit “unlawful” religious conversion in the context of marriage. Hard-line Hindu conservatives have labeled it “love jihad” — a conspiracy theory accusing Muslim men of wooing Hindu women to force them to convert to Islam.

National Public Radio for more

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