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Decode

Meet The Conspiracy Theorists Of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’

‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ is an alleged plot by Hindu men to trap Muslim women and convert them. The conspiracy theory has resulted in the harassment of Muslim women.

By - Vipul Kumar | 27 Jun 2023 6:19 AM GMT

Last month, a video of a mob harassing a woman wearing burqa went viral. The woman was on a bike with her male friend; they were stopped by the mob. In the background, two people are heard claiming that the man on the bike had taken the woman to a temple. Another man then exclaims, "In a temple? Then beat this mother*****r."

A man from the mob tells the woman, "Do you even know what you're doing, being a Muslim? Go home." The man on the bike says that the woman is his classmate. Meanwhile, two men from the mob start beating and abusing him, saying, "Will you engage in Bhagwa Love Trap? Will you wander with Muslim girls?" They do not stop despite the intervention of a man in a skull cap.

The video is from May 15, shot in the Pirbahore area of Patna. The Pirbahor police told Decode that the two individuals being harassed in the video were classmates. No FIR was lodged in this case upon the request of the man being beaten in the video.

In the last few months, videos with the same pattern of moral policing, varying in degree of harassment, have surfaced online from different states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Bihar. The conspiracy theory that has triggered these harassments is called the "Bhagwa Love Trap", which translates to "Saffron Love Trap." 'Saffron' being the symbolism of Hindutva.

On May 20, a private educational institute that focuses on Muslim girls' education called 'Iqra Bismi,' organised a gathering in the Hussaini Alam area of Hyderabad. Approximately 300 people attended the event. It was aimed to "raise awareness within the community about safeguarding women from apostasy during these challenging times," Sheikh Abdul Sukur, the event's organizer, told Decode.

Hyderabad has witnessed a surge in cases of moral policing targeting interfaith couples. Numerous videos of such harassment have surfaced online from Hyderabad, leading to police intervention and subsequent arrests.

In October last year, the Hyderabad Cyber Police booked cases against many Instagram accounts with the word 'jhamunda' in their usernames for inciting religious hatred and filming and uploading videos of interfaith couples.

“Bhagwa Love Trap" is a conspiracy theory propagated by the Muslim right wing in India. Shoaib Jamai, a panelist often seen debating on mainstream TV news channels, said, "The 'Bhagwa Love Trap' is an online perversion targeted at Muslim women as part of a big conspiracy.”

Jamai is one of the prominent figures whose voice reaches the masses and is among the names that serve as a primary source of this theory. A PhD scholar in the Biotechnology department of Jamia Millia Islamia, Shoaib Jamai often appears as a panelist on news channels as a representative of the 'Muslims side’. And he often faces criticism for misrepresentation.

Jamai has been speaking about the conspiracy theory of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ on news channels and Twitter. Often, his clips are used by other social media handles and YouTube channels to justify the theory.

"Muslim women should be cautious of Hindus around, whether it's in the classroom, college, office, or social media,” he told Decode. “Hindus are a potential threat to Muslim girls," he added. Although Jamai is a self-styled advocate against divisive Hindutva politics, when asked, if he thinks the claim of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ is communal in nature and polarising the society further, he said, "Yes, I know, but this is the only option we have to save our community's women."

The Social Media Handles That Is Making ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ Viral

Among the big accounts that have been pushing the 'Bhagwa Love Trap theories' is @mr_uvais_01(Mohammad Uvais) with 389K followers on Instagram. His videos are wide-ranging — celebrating conversion into Islam, religious supremacy, preaching Islamic values and “exposing BLT”. In one video uploaded 8 weeks ago captioned #Bhagwalovetrap with 577 thousand views, he claims 5 lakh Muslim women in India have left Islam and have endorsed other religions. He doesn't cite any source. The video he posted reveals the identity of the man and the woman.

He claims that there are groups solely made for the purpose of luring and capturing Muslim women and converting them.

He also has a YouTube channel with 4.31 lakh subscribers where he makes similar videos. On his other Instagram account @mr_uvais_mart sells gadgets like earphones, watches and phones. The location mentioned on this account is Kundarki in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh.

An Instagram account called @servant_of_islam with 342 followers often doxxes interfaith couples and posts secretly recorded videos of them. The person behind the account told Decode that he collects data from social media accounts of such couples or friends and posts on his account.

"Online campaigns such as doxxing and leaking photos and videos of interfaith couples will instill fear among Muslim girls who spend time with their boyfriends and also those responsible for setting these traps,” he said.

A few days back, a Delhi-based activist Nabiya Khan was doxxed and trolled for tweeting, “why moral policing is reserved only for girls?” Her photos with Hindu male friends were used by multiple accounts on Twitter and Instagram to troll her. An Instagram account @muslimhomies, with 179 thousand followers, posted her photo with friends and a screenshot of the tweet with the caption, “The agenda behind the zina trap is simple, to hate Muslim men who want to be in a Halal relationship. And to praise non-Muslim men who engage in casual relationships.” Zina means having intercourse out of wedlock. The post was unavailable a few days later.

An Instagram account named @wake_up_muslim_girls_786 posted a poster with suggestions for parents to keep an eye on college and school-going Muslim girls to protect them from non-muslim boys. Another poster on @fi_sabilillah1149 tells via a graphical representation how the access of phones and social media to Muslim girls is making them fall into a 'Bhagwa Love Trap'.

When asked why he started his campaign, he showed some posts that he claimed motivated him to take action against ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’. One such post featured a man named Sukhdev Sahdeo, who spoke at an event organised by a Hindutva organisation called Shakal Hindu Samaj in Ghaziabad in 2018. In the video, Sahdeo asks the audience to target Muslim women to weaken Muslims.

Another video shown by @servant_of_islam was shot at a movie theater, where a man gave a speech after the screening of the movie "Kashmir Files." The man in the video can be heard saying that if every young man between the ages of 20 and 25 marry one Muslim girl, the Muslim population would decrease by half within three generations.

The call for violence against Muslim women by Hindutva extremists has had a major contribution to creating paranoia within the Muslim community. These pages use these brazen violent calls against Muslim women to gain traction and fuel the “Bhagwa Love Trap” theory.

Some of these incidents are the Bulli Bai and Sulli deals controversy in which Muslim women were “auctioned” on apps hosted by the Github platform.

In March 2023, Hindutva activist and Sudarshan TV anchor, Suresh Chavhanke called for the conversion of 40 lakh Muslim women to Hinduism “to solve the declining sex ratio in Hinduism.”

In December 2017, The Hindu Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, announced to facilitate the marriage of 2,100 Muslim women to Hindu men. Ajju Chauhan, the chief of the organization's Uttar Pradesh unit, stated that “this initiative was a reverse form of 'love jihad' and an attempt to counter what Muslims are doing.”

In April 2022, a video of a Hindu seer named Bajrang Muni went viral, in which he addressed a crowd, saying, 'If a single Hindu girl is teased by you (Muslims) in Khairabad, Uttar Pradesh, I will openly bring out your daughters and daughters-in-law from your homes and rape them”.

These videos are often posted on these anti-Bhagwa Love Trap pages to justify their actions.

Fake news too is weaponized by such pages, giving a communal spin to various incidents.

One such news item that has been shared with a communal spin is a video report by BBC from May 2015 on marital rape. In order to address this issue, the BBC had to comment in the YouTube video report's comment section, urging viewers not to give it a communal spin and misinterpret the context. Since 2015, this video report has been repeatedly used to promote the theory of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’.

A video of sexual assault from Bangladesh was posted online by many individuals, who claimed it was a case of "bhagwa love trap" occurring in India. BOOM fact-checked this claim.

Another video depicted a man mercilessly beating a woman and was misleadingly presented as a case of "bhagwa love trap." Interestingly, the same video was also shared by Hindu right-wing Twitter handles, alleging "love jihad". However, according to a report in Dainik Bhaskar, the video was actually footage of domestic violence from Etawah, and the couple involved belonged to the same community.

A Facebook page named City News 24X7 with 106 thousand followers posted a video on 25 September 2021 with the caption 'a burqa-clad woman was caught with a Hindu boy, Bhagwa love trap in Hyderabad'. The video which has garnered 1.3 million views and 6700 shares shows a mob stopping a bike and harassing a man and a woman. Later in the video a woman claiming to be a social worker asks parents to spy on their children to stop them from meeting non-muslim boys. (LINK)

A YouTube channel named Secular Miyabhai with 10.5 lakh subscribers posted a video of harassing many interfaith couples as news. The video, titled "FIR against Muslim youths for stopping bhagwa love trap: Muslim girl with non-Muslim," and featuring a thumbnail stating "Two Muslim girls caught with non-Muslims in Karnataka," reveals the faces of the individuals being harassed, as well as the license plates of their bikes.

Uploaded on May 23, 2023, the video has garnered 1 lakh views. There are other similar videos on this channel. There is one Instagram account with 45 thousand followers linked to this YouTube channel. The content posted there is on the same line as on YouTube.

In one video by a verified Instagram account with 56.4k followers that belongs to @muftishamail (Mufti Shmail Nadwi) he states that “having a relationship with non-Muslims is like being in the fire of the hell”. This video has received 42 thousand views. Additionally, he operates another account, @shehjaar_foods, with 784 followers, where he sells dry fruits. The location mentioned for this account is Kolkata.

@naziya_ansaari with 44.5k followers and @zoyafathima5913 with 11.1k followers have reels of ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ claims where they ask their followers to keep Muslim girls away from college and phones to avoid moral bankruptcy.

On 24 April this year, a video was posted on Twitter by one verified account with 9373 followers, Mohammad Tanvir(@tanveerpost) who claims to be a journalist. In the tweet, which has garnered 2 million views, the caption states, "making excuses of Eid shopping and taking advantage of the freedom given by parents. These girls are wandering with non-Muslims." The last line of the caption reads, "Girls are becoming apostates." In the video, a man can be heard verbally harassing two girls in a market for being with 'others'.

In March of this year, a case was registered against this @tanveerpost, along with others, for spreading fake news about an attack on migrant laborers from Bihar in Tamil Nadu and causing statewide panic.

Another prominent figure who promoted the theory of the 'Bhagwa Love Trap' to the masses is Sajjad Nomani, the spokesperson of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. In a speech, he claimed that 8 lakh Muslim women have become apostates after marrying non-Muslim boys. He alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has established a large team of trained individuals for this purpose. According to him, these boys are trained in speaking good Lucknow-style Urdu and other Arabic words. Nomani argued that this is a significant conspiracy against Muslims and Islam, with billions of dollars being funneled from both abroad and within the country to support it.

However, he later retracted his statement, acknowledging that the data was incorrect. Despite his retraction, his speech went viral and has been used by many accounts to promote the ‘Bhagwa Love Trap’ theory.

The damage was done.

In a video posted on Facebook with more than 1 million views the 'Bhagwa Love Trap' conspiracy theory is explained using the same video of Sajjad Nomani.

An Instagram audio of 19 seconds, created by one account @syeds_jagirdar_v18 has become popular among the anti 'Bhagwa Love Trap' pages. The first 10 seconds of the audio say, "Trapping girls and thinking you are a man? Come out in the field for 15 minutes if you're a real man." The audio ends with a clip of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi laughing and saying "15 minutes". This clip is used out of context from his speech at Khilwath Ground, Hyderabad, on April 9, 2019. In the speech, Owaisi is is talking about how much time he still has for the speech; he says "15 minutes" and laughs.

Another short video clip of Akbaruddin Owaisi is viral too. The clip that is being used is from Akbaruddin Owaisi's speech in 2012, in which he had said, "We (Muslims) are 25 crores and you are 100 crore. Remove the police for 15 minutes and you'll know who is more courageous and powerful." A hate speech case was registered against him in which he was acquitted later.

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