New Delhi: In a stark example of how the Uttar Pradesh government and police can misuse the new anti-conversion law in the state, an inter-faith couple in Lucknow was stopped from getting married on Wednesday despite having consent from both families.
According to the Indian Express, police received a complaint from Hindu outfits and intervened to stop the marriage between a 22-year-old Hindu woman and a 24-year-old Muslim man. The wedding was to take place under Hindu rituals, the report says. The police reached the marriage site just as the final preparations were on, and said that the couple needs the district magistrate’s permission before going ahead.
“The family of the girl is Hindu, while the boy’s family is Muslim. Both of them were getting married with each other’s consent and there was no coercion of any type. Some representatives of Hindu Yuva Vahini objected to the wedding and we stopped the wedding and told them that under the new conversion law, you can only get married if you have notified the District Magistrate for the specified period of time. We told them that it should not seem that there is pressure to convert,” Para police station SHO Triloki Singh told the Indian Express.
Neither the bride or groom had expressed any immediate desire to convert, Singh added, and both said they wanted to get married.
Lawyer Vakasha Sachdev, however, pointed out on Twitter that for multiple reasons, this case did not even qualify under the new anti-conversion ordinance, which the police cited while stopping the wedding. For instance, the law says that a complaint can only be filed by an aggrieved person – which includes family members of the person allegedly being forced to convert. A group like the Hindu Yuva Vahini – with no personal connection to the individuals – does not qualify.
In addition, there was no conversion involved at all, just a marriage. So permission from the district magistrate is not required under the anti-conversion law. “In this case, Muslim man had agreed to Hindu rituals without yet converting. While this meant marriage registration may not have been possible yet, [there was] no impediment to the ceremony,” Sachdev continues.
If the conversion process wasn’t later followed, then again, the marriage could be declared nullified.
But not yet. And also not on the complaint of unrelated goons from the Hindu Yuva Vahini.
The police handing out copies of the ordinance need to read it themselves.
— Vakasha Sachdev (@VakashaS) December 4, 2020
While the law itself is severely under question, the UP police and right-wing Hindutva organisations appear to be taking it a step further to stop inter-faith marriages altogether. This is something observers, including retired IPS officer N.C. Asthana, had seen coming. Writing in The Wire, Asthana said, “The UP law is teeming with legal blunders that strongly indicate the real intent of the law is to harass people so much that conversion per se is discouraged.”
Reports have already started coming in to show that the new law is perhaps being used to harass Muslim men and inter-faith couples. The first arrest under the law took place just five days after it was promulgated, and locals of the area believe the case was filed under police pressure as the matter was already settled.
In another incident, a 21-year-old Muslim man and 21-year-old woman who had come to an Aligarh court to register an inter-faith marriage were taken away by the police, and the man allegedly roughed up.