New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra has said that a ‘love jihad bill’, which includes five years of rigorous imprisonment for ‘violators’, will soon be introduced in the state assembly.
Until now, ‘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.
The charge will be cognizable and non-bailable, Mishra told reporters, according to a report in the Indian Express. The Bill will also have a provision that will make it necessary to notify the district collector a month in advance before formalising an inter-faith marriage.
“There will be provision to declare marriages taking place forcefully, out of fraud or by tempting someone, for religious conversion, null and void. Those assisting in committing this crime will also be considered a party to the crime,” Mishra said.
The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government has previously indicated that it would enact legislation against “love jihad”. “Jihad will not be permitted in the name of love at any cost in the state. Necessary legal provisions will be made against love jihad,” the chief minister had said.
The BJP led governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are also reportedly considering legal provisions against “love jihad” even though the right to marry a person of one’s choice is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
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.”