New Delhi: Devbhoomi mein zameen jihad” (land jihad in the land of God) and “Bulldozer action ki bari” (time for bulldozer action) were tickers running in news programmes on 2 January 2023, covering the protests by the mostly Muslim residents of Haldwani against a demolition drive by the Uttarakhand government.

The anchor for Times Now Navbharat claimed that a “Jihadi gang” was protesting to stop the government from bulldozing 4,365 homes in the southeastern part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state. The voiceover in the show compared the Haldwani protests to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and claimed that women were protesting at the behest of “land jihadis”.

On 29 January 2023, at a  Hindutva rally, one of many organised in Mumbai by the far-right Sakal Hindu Samaj to protest “land jihad” and “love jihad”, thousands of supporters and leaders of the BJP attended this event. Open calls for mob violence against Muslims were made in the BJP-ruled Maharashtra.

Attendees held up placards saying: “BMC hosh me aao, land jihad pe rok lagao.” (Beware BMC, put an end to land jihad). In a video, people can be heard raising the slogan, “Illegal mosques and graveyards…these are signs of land jihad.”

That day, in a news program on the Aaj Tak, the on-ground reporter presented this rally as “anger against religious conversion, cow slaughter and love jihad” while not addressing the anti-Muslim speeches made at the rally.

The channel interviewed people marching in the rally, who said things like, “The issue of love jihad is not only limited to love. This is also a conversion. They marry by disguising themselves as Hindus. After marrying, they also convert them (women). Someone becomes Bablu, someone becomes someone else. They kill our people by disguising themselves as Hindus.”

The reporter, instead of questioning these claims, added, “because they don’t show their real identities and identity proofs and live by changing their names”, to which the protester replied, “yes”.

In February 2020, even as the muttering of “love jihad” by the fringe had become full-blown propaganda after the BJP had come to power in 2014, their government at the Centre told Parliament that no such crime existed.

On India TV, this rally was covered on 29 January 2023 with the title “flood of anger in Mumbai”. The anchor said, “Hindus have flooded the roads of Mumbai. This flood of people has come with issues such as love jihad, land jihad, illegal religious conversion, and encroachment.” The tickers in the show said, “land jihad…love jihad…nirnayak yuddh ka aaghaz” (land jihad…love jihad…start of a deciding war).

After The “Love Jihad” Propaganda, “Land Jihad”

After successfully disseminating propaganda about Muslims targeting Hindu women and trying to out-populate the Hindu majority, similar exertions are being made by the Hindu right to brainwash people into believing that “land jihad” exists, with the Indian mainstream media fanning the falsehood and anti-Muslim hate.

The propaganda is that Muslims are taking over lands owned by Hindus by harassing them, seizing their properties illegally, and squeezing them out of their neighbourhoods.

A study of television debates, news programmes, newspaper reports, and social media posts shows that the mainstream media has adopted the propaganda of the Hindu right, whose theories they had earlier discarded as the fringe. With the help of the media, conspiracy theories are appropriated by Hindu extremists and BJP leaders in their specific regional context to build a campaign against Muslims.

The “land jihad” propaganda is used by authorities and the media to defend the demolition of homes without due process in BJP-run states…

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