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New Delhi: The testimony of a Hindu woman, whose Muslim husband is behind bars under Gujarat’s anti-conversion law, in the Gujarat high court has once again shown that the so-called ‘love jihad’ law is being used to target consenting interfaith couples by ‘overzealous’ police and certain religio-political groups.
On Wednesday, a woman, based on whose complaint the first case under Gujarat’s Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021, was registered in June this year, told the court that the contents of the FIR lodged by the Vadodara police are not true.
While the FIR mentioned a series of accusations, including sexual assault, forcible miscarriages, domestic violence and usage of casteist slurs by the accused, the woman said that she did not make any such allegations, according to Bar and Bench.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the couple, in which it was submitted that the woman informant approached the Gotri police station in Vadodra to complain about a “petty matrimonial issue”, which she believed would be covered under Section 498A (cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The petition says that the intervention of certain “religio-political” groups meant that the matter was “communalised and the ‘love jihad’ angle was brought in”, according to Bar and Bench.
According to The Hindu, the woman expressed shock that the police also added the charges of “rape and sodomy” in the FIR. She categorically denied these allegations, accusing the police of “overzealousness”.
The petition also denies charges of forceful conversion. The couple said they were in a relationship and were “aware of each other’s religion”. They decided to solemnise their marriage as per Islamic rites on February 16, 2021, and it was also registered under the Special Marriage Act. The girl’s father stood as a witness in their marriage and both families had no issues, they said.
According to reports, seven persons have been booked, including the woman’s husband, her in-laws and the qazi (priest) who solemnised the marriage. They are all behind bars.
After hearing the woman, who said that she wants to live with her husband as a married couple, the Gujarat high court asked the state government to file an affidavit to explain its objections to quash the FIR by September 20, according to The Hindu.
The woman’s sensational allegations show that the fears expressed by civil society members that the law, which ostensibly bans forced religious conversion, would be used to further the right-wing conspiracy theory of ‘love jihad’ have come true. Several other BJP-ruled states have passed similar laws, where consenting interfaith couples have been targeted.
On August 19, the Gujarat high court stayed the operation of the controversial law to prevent interfaith couples from being “unnecessarily harassed“. The court said:
“Sections 3, 4, 4A to 4C, 5, 6, 6A shall not operate merely because the marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with another without force or by allurement or by fraudulent means and such marriages cannot be termed as marriages for the purposes of unlawful conversion.”
The Gujarat government plans to appeal the order before the Supreme Court.