The year 2030, according to the predictions of Chetna Devi, is when Muslims in this country will outnumber Hindus since “they reproduce like pests”. This will happen sooner than we think, she says. Hindus will be hunted down and made refugees in their own motherland by “majoritarian” Muslims, she believes, because in a land where Muslims dominate, no other religion is allowed to exist.

She claims to understand their game plan; their hidden agenda to usurp Bharatvarsha from Hindus. And to prepare for this distinct eventuality, she wants Hindus – usually a peaceful community, she said – to take up arms and prepare for a war of faith that will preserve their religion and their existence. To this end, she trains women and children in weaponry, including bows and arrows, swords and even guns. Such training centres are called akhadas.

Chetna Devi is known to the world as Yati Maa Chetnanand Saraswati, head of a Meerut-based outfit called Akhand Hindustan Morcha. She is one of the most charismatic and prominent religious leaders in a region that has produced many like her.

Meeting her was a bit of a challenge, though. Not because she didn’t want to meet us and discuss her worldview, but because the directions she gave us to her house were utterly convoluted. That, we were to realise later, was the only ambiguity we would experience in dealing with her. It took us an hour longer than we had anticipated to get to her home, which we finally managed with the help of her neighbours.

Chetna Devi is popular in her neighbourhood. She is both a lawyer and a religious leader, which is a rare but useful combination of talents, and one that makes it difficult to ignore her.

We eventually found her independent double-storied house sandwiched between two other houses in a corner plot, surrounded by a high wall. Iron gates opened into a small courtyard ornamented with a few potted plants, and clothes were drying on washing lines. To all appearances, it was a quintessentially middle class home in this district of a million-plus people.

We had first heard about Chetna Devi in connection with Shallu, the poster figure for love jihad. Chetna had helped the family “rescue” Shallu from marrying Kalim. She has provided similar services to many Hindus families, all cases of love jihad. In her quest to save Hinduism, in fact, Chetna is particularly concerned with love jihad.

According to the propaganda, love jihad is the act of a Muslim man enticing a Hindu girl into a relationship and then marrying her. In the process, the girl is converted to Islam. And since a Muslim man is legally allowed four wives, he can repeat the process several times. Many fertile Hindu girls are thus converted to Islam and bear Muslim children. This means Hindus are deprived of potential mothers. If this larger strategy succeeds, there won’t be enough Hindu women left to give birth to Hindu children.

For Chetna, love jihad is a sinister socio-religious plot by one religion against another. Though her own personality is pretty tough, Chetna feels young Hindu girls are gullible and vulnerable, easy prey for “sensuous” Muslim men.

That Muslim men are sensuous is also the fault of their faith, she says. In what she claims is a scientific theory, she says that, since Muslims as a community are relatively poor, they live in small houses without privacy. Young children, therefore, witness their parents in the act of sex very early on. Since they are initiated into sexual intimacy early, they are better at satisfying a woman’s desire. Therefore, if a Hindu girl experiences intimacy with a Muslim boy, she falls madly in love, and even the honour of her family becomes a secondary consideration.

I smiled and said, “It’s not fair to call only Muslim men sensuous.”

She didn’t get the joke and said, “There is a reason for it. Sex is not taboo in a Muslim family. And the family encourages them to trap Hindu girls.”

I didn’t try to convince her that her castigation of Muslim men as irresistible is actually a compliment to them, and that her characterisation of Hindu girls as innocent and gullible is actually criticism. The implication, of course, is that Hindu girls don’t have minds of their own, and therefore, are prone to being manipulated. However, when it comes to Shallu, these conclusions are not borne out by the facts. Shallu was fiercely independent and sure of her mind in the face of enormous social and family pressure, even death threats.

Chetna blamed Shallu’s family for the young woman’s actions. Since she made herself responsible for getting Shallu back, she knows the family well. Tyagi, Shallu’s father, “is an alcoholic”, said Chetna. “He couldn’t keep his flock together.” Since the family didn’t pursue the matter in court, their outrage in front of the media was mere drama, Chetna concluded in her matter-of-fact manner.

Shallu’s younger sister stayed with Chetna for weeks before she returned to her family home, she said, because Chetna and her husband wanted to ensure that this young woman would not repeat her sister’s mistake. “She was in love with the same man as her older sister,” Chetna repeated, as if to say, can you believe it?

Chetna claims that Kalim was having an affair with both sisters, each madly in love with him. Chetna and her husband had to ensure that the younger girl did not elope with Kalim. They counselled her and even used force in their effort to de-indoctrinate her, present reason to her, rescue her life.

Many such girls, Chetna claimed, have sought her help. In her experience, love jihad is a dangerous game. Muslims are innovative in the ways they employ to destroy the Hindu religion, she says, and she lists various types of jihad.

  • Population jihad: Each married Muslim couple should produce as many children as possible so that one day, not too far in the future, Muslims will outnumber Hindus.
  • Rape jihad: Thankfully, still not practiced extensively, this means that videos are made of girls being raped. These girls are then blackmailed into submission.
  • Land jihad: In other words, ghettoisation.

I decided to confront her. “I’m being the devil’s advocate,” I said. “I have questions to ask. You may not like them. But may I ask?”

“Go ahead. I know your questions,” she retorted.

“You see sinister designs in every action and blame a religion for it. Are you paranoid?”

“The Hindus are sleeping. The way things are these days, it will only culminate in nar-shaghar or mass extermination. Look what happened in Kashmir. Lakhs of Hindus were hounded out of their homes. The situation was bad and is getting worse.”

Chetna was always focused when we spoke. It does not disturb her that her love for her fellow Hindus is fuelled by hatred for Muslims. Indeed, hatred seems to be the guiding force of her myopic worldview. Her hate is genuine, much like true love. She isn’t faking it for some political convenience. And I can’t help but empathise with her: she is so wrong, but her convictions are the gospel truth to her, and she is tormented by them every moment of her life. All this hatred has become her life force.

Excerpted with permission from Love Jihadis: An Open-Minded Journey into the Heart of Western Uttar Pradesh by Mihir Srivastava and Raul Irani, published by Westland Publications, March 2020.