New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved the draft of a stringent law to deal with religious conversion for the sake of marriage, keeping its promise to tackle the Sangh parivar-imagined concept, ‘love jihad’.
‘Love jihad’ is a term yet unrecognised by the Indian legal system. It was coined to refer to a non-existent system under which Hindu women have been converted forcibly by Muslim men on the pretext of marriage.
An official spokesperson was quoted by PTI as having said that the approval for the ordinance was given at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at Lucknow.
In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter ‘love jihad.’
The cabinet’s approval came in spite of the fact that on November 11, the Allahabad high court denounced a judgment by a single-judge bench that Adityanath has openly cited as proof that his crusade against ‘love jihad’ has teeth.
The high court held that the previous decision that religious conversions only for the sake of marriage are unacceptable was “bad in law” and did not take into account the right to life and personal liberty of mature adults.
“The way in which religious conversions are done using deceit, lies, force and dishonesty is heart wrenching, and it was necessary to have a law in this regard,” Cabinet minister and UP government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh said.
Punishment under the new law is a jail term between one and five years, and a fine of Rs 15,000. But if the woman involved is a minor or belongs to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, the jail term would range from three to 10 years and the fine would increase to Rs 25,000.
“In the case of mass conversions, the punishment is from three years to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 on the organisations which indulge in it,” the minister told reporters.
If a person wants to marry after converting into any other religion, they will need to take permission from District Magistrate two months before the wedding.
Singh said if anyone wants to change religion after marriage, then he or she “can do so.”
The official report of a ‘special investigation’ launched by the Uttar Pradesh Police into allegations of allurement and forced conversion of Hindu women – submitted to Kanpur inspector general of police Mohit Agarwal last Saturday – has concluded that the majority of Hindu-Muslim romance cases probed were consensual.
In an earlier analysis, Sharat Pradhan had observed that a close study of the state’s crime records gave a picture quite opposite to the claim made by Adityanath and his officials – that ‘love jihad’ was an escalating menace in the state.
“In all, there were barely nine recently reported cases of marriages between a Hindu girl and Muslim boy. And these too were limited to just five of UP’s 75 districts, namely Kanpur, Meerut, Aligarh, Lakhimpur-Kheri and Ghaziabad. In five of these nine cases, the Hindu girls openly refuted the accusations of ‘love jihad’ on the basis of which complaints had been made by their respective parents. In most of the remaining cases, say lawyers, police and parental pressure usually works to undercut the marriages, with the girls then agreeing to return home,” Pradhan had written for The Wire.
In addition to its openly communal nature, the law is also harmful to women and takes no account of their freewill, several have argued.