New Delhi: A committee will be set up to draft a “strict” law against “love jihad”, Haryana home minister Anil Vij said on Tuesday. He also said that Haryana will study the laws made by other states in this regard.
Haryana’s announcement came on the same day when Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra said a ‘love jihad bill’, which includes five years of rigorous imprisonment for ‘violators’, will soon be introduced in the state assembly.
“A strict law will be enacted against ‘love jihad’ in the state. A committee will be constituted to draft this law,” said Vij, who chaired a meeting with senior officials of the home department, according to an official statement.
The home minister, according to the statement, said that “with the enactment of this law, strict action will be taken against any person who is found indulging in religious conversion by pressuring, tempting someone or is involved in any kind of conspiracy or tries to do so in the name of love”.
Vij said officials of the home department, the advocate general, among others, will be part of this committee. Additional chief secretary (home department) Rajeev Arora, director general of police Manoj Yadava and additional director general of police, CID Alok Mittal, were among the officers present in the meeting.
Earlier this month, Vij had told the Haryana assembly that the state government is considering a law against “love jihad” and has sought information from Himachal Pradesh, which had passed a bill on the issue. The Himachal Pradesh assembly had last year passed a bill against conversion by force, inducement or through marriages solemnised for the “sole purpose” of adopting a new religion.
Until recently, ‘love jihad’ was not a term recognised by any legal system in India. It was coined by Sangh parivar outfits to describe an imaginary Muslim conspiracy to convert ‘unsuspecting’ Hindu women to Islam.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders too have spoken about the perceived issue recently.
At a recent BJP election rally in Jaunpur, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, referring to a remark by the Allahabad high court that conversion “just for the purpose of marriage” was unacceptable, said his government was working to bring a strict law to curb incidents of “love jihad”.
However, Justice (Retd) Aditya Nath Mittal, chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission, had told The Hindu that if the state government sought to bring a ‘limited scope legislation’ restricting marriages between a Hindu and a Muslim in the garb of curbing ‘love jihad’, it would not stand in law.
The term was also raked up recently after a 21-year-old student was shot dead outside her college in Ballabgarh, Haryana last month. The victim’s family has alleged that the accused had been pressuring her to convert and marry him.
Patanjali founder Ramdev also called the murder a case of “love jihad” and said that “Public hanging of the accused alone can prevent reiteration of such crimes”.
Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has also said that his government would take measures to end religious conversions in the name of “love jihad”.
“Young girls of the state are being lured in the name of love and money and are being converted to other religions, we have considered it seriously,” Yediyurappa said at a Bharatiya Janata party executive meeting. “After a thorough review, we will take a strong measure.”
Last month, the chairperson for the National Commission, Rekha Sharma, tweeted that she had discussed the “rise in love jihad cases” with Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. However, a query under the Right to Information Act revealed that the NCW did not maintain any data on “love jihad” cases.
Earlier this year, the Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said that the term ‘love jihad’ was not defined under the extant laws and no case of ‘love jihad’ had been reported by any of the central agencies. Reddy also said Article 25 of the constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.
The minister, however, said that two cases from Kerala involving inter-faith marriage had been probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). One over whether Hadiya, a Kerala woman, was forcibly converted by her husband before marriage. Despite repeated insistence by Hadiya that she had married of her own free will, the Kerala high court had annulled her marriage, only for it to have been eventually restored by the Supreme Court.
Writing for The Wire, N.C. Asthana had noted, “The spectre of ‘love jihad’ both communalises and criminalises a matter of personal choice between two consenting adults. Such laws, if passed, besides being ultra vires of the constitution, will also demonstrate how the legislative process could be deliberately abused to further a political agenda. It would be inherently immoral because it would seek to delegitimise something as sacred as love. It would be patriarchal and anti-women because it would treat Hindu women as ‘property’ of their men, and thus control their sexuality. It would be degrading to them because it would presume that they are so gullible that they could not be trusted upon to decide what is good for them in life.”
(With PTI inputs)