Amidst the numerous crises India is facing, five Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states have decided that one of their top priorities is to pass a law based on a Hindutva conspiracy theory aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage.

The leaders of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam have promised to introduced strict legal provisions to prevent “love jihad”, a conspiritorial delusion that imagines a vast, country-wide plot by Muslim men to dupe unsuspecting Hindu women into marriage with the aim of converting them to Islam.

Every aspect of these laws and the conversation around them is deeply problematic.

The idea of “love jihad” itself comes from what was once a fringe conspiracy theory among Christian and Hindu groups in Kerala that spread around the country thanks to misinformation in Hindutva networks, often picking stray incidents and weaving them into a grand narrative. The theory plays into older right-wing Hindu anxieties about the virility of Muslim men, the purported susceptibility of Hindu women and baseless fears about wholesale demographic change that will result from inter-faith marriages.

“It is impossible for Hindu groups to conceive that Hindu women can voluntarily elope or convert,” noted historian Charu Gupta, whose research unearthed similar conspiracy theories North India in the 1920s. “Thus every romance, love, elopement and marriage...

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