Madhya Pradesh Now Proposes 10 Year Jail Term for 'Love Jihad'

The bill will provide a five-year jail term for Gurus, Priests, Maulvis and Kazis who conduct such marriages, and registration of organisations conducting such marriages will be cancelled.

Bhopal: The BJP-led government in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday said it is proposing a jail term of ten years for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change religion.

The announcement by state home minister Narottam Mishra came a day after Uttar Pradesh government approved a draft ordinance to curb forcible or ‘dishonest’ religious conversions including those for the sake of marriage, which could land violators in jail for up to ten years.

In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which party leaders often refer to as love jihad.

Mishra told reporters that the state government has proposed a 10-year jail term for luring, threatening and forcing someone into marriage for religious conversion, in the proposed Dharm Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020.

The bill draft will be presented before the cabinet in the second week of December and subsequently tabled in the state assembly during its session from December 28, he added.

He said the bill will provide a five-year jail term for Gurus, Priests, Maulvis and Kazis who will conduct such marriages, and registration of organisations conducting such marriages will be cancelled.

Also read: The History of ‘Love Jihad’: How Sangh Parivar Spread a Dangerous, Imaginary Idea<

On November 17, 2020, Mishra had said the BJP government in the state was planning to bring the bill because of the rising incidents of ‘love jihad’ and had said it proposes rigorous imprisonment for five years for luring a person through fraud and forcing marriage by religious conversion.

“The draft of this bill has a provision of a ten year jail sentence for luring, intimidating someone into marriage for religious conversion. A provision of five-year jail term is there in the draft bill for the priests or religious gurus, who solemnise such marriages without seeking the district magistrate’s nod,” Mishra said on Wednesday.

Mishra held a meeting with officials on Wednesday to discuss the draft of the bill.

“Under this proposed law, the parties concerned will have to submit an application to the district magistrate before the conversion for marriage,” the minister said.

“It will be mandatory for the person converting to another religion for marriage, and the religious persons involved to obtain the permission of the district magistrate concerned a month in advance,” he said.

“Any offence under this new proposed law would be cognizable and non-bailable. Those who help in solemnising marriages would also be treated as the main accused,” he said.

Those accused of marriage by conversion will themselves have to prove that this work has been done without any pressure, threat or allurement, he said.

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government had 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.

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 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.

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”.

On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh government also 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’.

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.

(With inputs from PTI)