When 26-year-old Roshni (name changed) wanted to marry her Muslim boyfriend last year, the opposition came not from their families but from a Hindu vigilante group, the Hindu Rakshak Samiti (HRS), active in this region close to Nasik. “They harassed my parents and relatives, saying we would be ostracised. They even threatened my husband’s family,” said Roshni , who went ahead with the marriage. But the days leading up to the ceremony were fraught with tension.
The Hindu met with members of the HRS, who spoke openly about their campaign on the condition that they would not be named. Formed in 2005, the all-male squad has a clear agenda: “saving” Hindu women from Muslim men. They see themselves as warriors against what they call “Love Jihad,” a conspiracy theory floated by Hindutva groups like the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti which claims that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage with the aim of increasing their own population. The vigilantist propaganda campaign, which initially took root in Karnataka and Kerala, has now spread to this region in Maharashtra. In Dhule, the HRS has an extensive network with a well laid out modus operandi. It has recruited young men who are stationed across the city, especially in colleges. If they see Hindu girls befriending Muslim boys, they warn them. Then they inform their parents about the friendship and ask them to keep their daughters “in check.” Most of its members belong to the BJP, the Shiv Sena or the RSS. The vigilantes include 24-year-old Rohan Kulkarni, among the few who agreed to be named. While speaking to this reporter, he received a phone call. “A Hindu girl was seen entering with a Muslim boy,” said the voice on the phone.
Formed in 2005, the all-male squad’s agenda is “saving” Hindu women from Muslim men
The group claims it is often contacted by parents of young women