The protest at Pimpri Chinchwad.|Shambhavi Thakur

Over the last 30 days, affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have spearheaded high-intensity protests across Maharashtra. Alongside a coterie of similar Hindutva outfits, they all have a single demand – the enactment of a “love jihad” law in the state.

Their demand is legitimised by the state government, with deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis telling the state assembly on Tuesday that Maharashtra is “ready” to enact such a law “to ensure long-term protection to women”. He hastened to add that the state isn’t against “interfaith” marriages, but love jihad happens “as part of a larger design”.

“Love jihad” is a Hindutva bogey that claims Muslim men seduce Hindu women with the express purpose of converting them to Islam. The conspiracy theory, while never really going away, has resurfaced anew after the Shraddha Walker murder in Delhi; she was murdered and then dismembered by her live-in partner, Aftab Poonawalla. Those participating in and leading the protests overflow with warnings of Muslims performing “black magic” on Hindu girls and how Bollywood encourages such behaviour.

So far, protest marches – with names like Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha, Hindu Jangarjana Morcha, Virat Hindu Morcha and Bhavya Aakrosh Morcha – have taken place in Ahmednagar, Nanded, Nashik, Dhule, Pimpri Chinchwad, Patan and suburban Mumbai. Most of the protests were under the banner of one Sakal Hindu Samaj, an RSS affiliate, with the active participation of RSS arms including the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party. Smaller groups – the Hindu Janajgruti Samiti, Vishwa Shriram Sena, Shri Ram Pratishthan Hindustan and Sanatan Sanstha – also participated in the protests.

The marches saw thousands of participants, waving banners and chanting slogans. Some of them include speeches by purported leading personalities to add fuel to their fire.

In Ahmednagar on December 14, for instance, a protest called the Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha featured inflammatory speeches by two controversial right-wing hardliners, Kalicharan Maharaj and Kajal Shingala. Kalicharan was arrested in December last year for insulting Mahatma Gandhi and praising Nathuram Godse at a Dharam Sansad in Raipur. Shingala, who also goes by Kajal Hindustani, was booked in October for a speech she made in Udupi urging people to boycott Muslim businesses.

Their speeches in Ahmednagar followed a similar pattern.

Kalicharan alleged “40,000 cases of love jihad happen in India on a daily basis”. He offered no data for his claim, nor did his audience ask him of it. “They do vashikaran, black magic on these girls,” he said. “But there is a way to counter this black magic – keep the tooth of a wild boar in water overnight and give that water to a girl stuck in a love jihad case. Make her drink it and she will be immediately out of black magic.”

Warning that Christianity and Islam are “not religions”, Kalicharan told his enthralled gathering that Muslims have an “800-year-old plan” – the Ghazwa-e-Hind – to “convert India into a country of Muslims”. “They have destroyed five lakh temples,” he said. “…They want to produce kids in large numbers and, within 10 years, they want a Muslim to be prime minister of India…They get Rs 7 lakh per case to trap Hindu girls.”

Shingala’s speech took off where Kalicharan had left off, urging the Hindu community to “protect itself”. She claimed Hindu women were being “decapitated”, “burned”, “sold or forced into prostitution”, and “sexually abused” by Muslim men.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here