A mahapanchayat in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district has decided to boycott Muslims of a village after a man eloped with a Hindu woman, described by Hindu right-wing groups as a case of ‘love jihad’.
Police confirmed the development but said they were trying to convince village heads to withdraw the boycott in Gudia, a Muslim-dominated village about 400 km from state capital Jaipur.
The mahapanchayat -- a gathering of people from several villages -- was attended on Monday by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, which have launched a countrywide campaign against what they refer to as ‘love jihad’, an alleged conspiracy to convert Hindu girls to Islam through coercion and allurement.
Police said on Wednesday the 21-year-old woman from Khara Khera village eloped with a Muslim man on March 13, a day before her marriage to another man. Both are undergraduate students from separate colleges in Hanumangarh.
Police caught the couple in Delhi on Saturday after the woman’s parents lodged a police complaint. The man, 22, is in police custody.
“After the incident, we have decided to sever all ties with them (Muslims of Gudia) and boycott them. Today, it has happened with one family, tomorrow it could happen with some other family,” said Shiv Bhagwan Jhorar, the sarpanch of Khara Khera.
“Also, the Muslims marry their cousins, so they don’t appreciate or understand family relationships like these.”
He said the villagers sought the help of the VHP and Bajrang Dal but also told the groups that they did not want any communal tension.
No leader from the two groups were available for comments. Muslim groups have not reacted to the boycott.
Police said the situation was peaceful in the district, which has a Muslim population of 1.18 lakh (6.69%) out of a total of 17.74 lakh people.
“The villagers did not want to hold the mahapanchayat after they got back the girl but they had already invited a lot of people from the nearby villages,” said Ishwar Anand, the station house officer of Tibbi.
The mahapanchayat saw an attendance of 2,000-odd people.
The SHO quoted a VHP member as saying that if the man had been one of their own community, it would not have mattered.
Another police officer who requested not to be named said that while some speakers said they should be cautious of their children interacting with Muslims in schools and colleges, some called for a boycott of Muslims.
“They said the villagers should sever ties with Muslims, should stop buying things from shops owned by Muslims, and if shops have been rented out to Muslims in villages they should be made to vacate,” said the police officer.
He also said that the idea of boycott did not resonate with the villagers. “This is a peaceful area. I’ll go to the villages and speak to people and see that such ideas don’t take root,” he added.