The Bharatiya Janata Party and its right-wing associates are on the back foot following a Meerut woman’s statement on Sunday that she had eloped with her boyfriend and willingly converted to Islam.

The case had been used by right-wing organisations to press the idea that Muslims in Uttar Pradesh were waging “love jihad”, a conspiracy to woo Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

After the woman  complained to the police on August 9 that she had been forcibly converted to Islam, gang-raped and was forced to terminate her pregnancy, the BJP and its allies had launched an intensely polarising campaign against so-called love jihad, using the issue as fodder for its campaign for by-elections to 11 Uttar Pradesh assembly seats in September.

Forced complaint

But three months after the case sparked communal tensions across western Uttar Pradesh, the woman on Sunday escaped from  her parents’ house and went a police station, saying she had been forced to file a false complaint by her family. She also told a magistrate that her family had been planning to murder her before she could go public with her statement that she had been forced to press false charges.

The woman said that she had willingly married a Muslim man named Kalimuddin in July. 

As the evidence in its vitriolic campaign against "love jihad" crumbled, the BJP attempted to appear nonchalant. "The BJP never used the term love jihad, the Indian media came up with this name," the BJP's UP state unit chief Lakhmikant Bajpai, told Scroll. "The BJP’s stand is that in such cases, irrespective of their religion, society should stand with the girl if she was manipulated into marrying a boy from a different religion.”

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders, who ran poster campaigns about love jihad, claimed that both the UP government and the UP police have been conspiring to prove the perpetrators innocent.

“This is a clear conspiracy of the UP government which is supporting the Muslim boy and the other perpetrators as an attempt to polarise the community," said Ajay Tyagi, a VHP leader from Kharkhoda in Uttar Pradesh. "After their humiliating defeat at the hands of the BJP in Lok Sabha elections, the Samajwadi Party has been trying to woo the Muslim vote bank.”

However, Samajwadi Party leader Gaurav Bhatia said that the right-wing groups are now looking to duck out of their tall claims. “They understood that their communal attempt to influence people on love jihad did not work, when Bajpai among other lost the by-poll elections," he said. "Our party has always maintained that a criminal is a criminal irrespective of his or her religion. How the BJP used the victim for kick-starting communal tensions is shameful.”

BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh are now demanding that action should be taken against the girl if she misled the police and the courts.

Social boycott

Meanwhile, the woman's family has been socially boycotted by their neigbours in Meerut. This is because of the woman's statement  that her family has been conspiring to kill her.

However, the woman's father claimed that it was his family that was really in danger. He alleged that relatives of the boy’s family visited their house several times and threatened to kill them if the woman did not change her statement.

“They said that they would chop my son’s head off in front of my eyes if my daughter did not do what they say,” her father said.  hat is why she has changed her statement, to protect the family. And the cops are also in on this. "The cops who were assigned to our house for protection would disappear late afternoon claiming that the cops from the next shift will come shortly. And inevitably, between that exchange people would come and threaten us."