Because the powers that be have decided to make their imaginary "love jihad" theory a thing, here's how to fight back. Fight it on the misogyny front.
Your response to "love jihad is happening" shouldn't be "no it's not". Because then they will just pile on examples of inter-religious marriage. Your response should be "so you don't think women can decide who to marry?"
In the first case, you are debating something unimportant. Of course anyone can marry anyone in a free society. You don't need to legitimise doubts about that. In the second case you are making it about something far more basic - our inherent misogyny that sees women as incapable of making decisions about their own lives.
Fight this on that front and you will prevent them from making it about Hindu-Muslim. Make it about feminism.
Because in India of 2020, the people who will be happy to make a debate out of “Is there something wrong with inter-religious marriages” can be labelled Right-Wingers as well as Centrists. But fewer people will openly say “no, women shouldn’t be allowed to decide who they marry”.
How mainstreaming works
One of the greatest tools in the modern bigot’s tool kit is mainstreaming. To summarise this quickly, here’s an excerpt from Innuendo Studios’ series “The Alt-Right Playbook”.
As a fringe group becomes more visible and their language becomes more commonplace, their presence in society starts to seem “normal”. Some people who thought they were strange and threatening will start to warm up to them.
Remember seeing this happen? Remember toxic ideas and terms become worthy of discussion even on seemingly liberal news channels like NDTV? Remember how people started speaking a language of hate that they were only whispering to themselves six years ago?
That’s what we are seeing happen with this “Love Jihad” thing right now. It was once a whisper because people would not have entertained the idea that there is something wrong with people marrying who they like, but now, we are all going to have second thoughts like “could they be right?” and “is something really wrong with Muslim men marrying Hindu women?” and “are we facing a cultural existential crisis?”.
Part of resisting an invasion of ideas is knowing that the invasion is happening in the first place. And we have already ceded a lot of territory in this war of ideas. Proof of that is when, in the name of “balanced debate”, we give space to sanity on the one side and monstrosity on the other side.
Monsters should not be sitting at the dinner table.