New Delhi: A month after arresting a Haridwar-based Muslim labourer under the controversial anti-conversion law, the Uttar Pradesh government has told the Allahabad high court that it has found no evidence of unlawful conversion against him and dropped the charges.
According to The Hindu, on November 29, 2020, a first information report (FIR) was registered against Nadeem (32) and his brother Salman under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. The complaint was filed by Akshay Kumar Tyagi, who works in a pharmaceutical company in Haridwar.
While he accused Nadeem of having an illicit relationship with his wife Parul, it has now emerged that Nadeem had actually helped Parul when she faced domestic violence and ‘mental torture; at home.
In Nov 20, 2 days after @UPGovt ‘s new conversion law, a 32 yr old Muslim man was booked by @muzafarnagarpol . He went to High Court and the judges ordered he could not be arrested . Now , this govt affidavit before court admits no evidence of ‘forced conversion’ against him … pic.twitter.com/d4rld4YxIo
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) January 7, 2021
Akshay had reportedly said Nadeem used to visit his house in Muzaffarnagar and had “trapped” his wife Parul in a “web of love” to try and convert her.
The woman came out in support of Nadeem and told The Hindu that Nadeem had never tried to convert her. She alleged that her husband had falsely implicated the Muslim labourer because he had supported her when she faced domestic violence and “mental torture” at home. In fact, she alleged that her husband didn’t consult her before filing the FIR.
“My family was not supportive. Nadeem stood up to help me and would talk to me. We spoke on the phone normally. But it wasn’t like I wanted to elope with him or spend my life with him,” she told Hindu. “If I want to elope, then nobody can stop me. No law stops me from living with someone. But I didn’t do this,” she told the paper.
The Allahabad high court last month said the police cannot take any coercive action against Nadeem and granted protection to him until the next date of hearing, which was on Thursday. The court has extended that protection and will hear the case on January 15.
According to the NDTV report, Nadeem’s lawyer Syed Farman Ahmad Naqvi said, “The state gave an affidavit that said naming them in the FIR under the anti-conversion law was found to be false and nothing was found in the investigation that he tried to forcibly convert the woman for marriage.”
“As far as the challenge to the Act goes, the main ground is that Article 25 guarantees that any person is free to choose his or her religion and the challenge is that the govt is interfering in our private affairs,” he added.
As per the report, a six-page ‘short affidavit’ filed on Wednesday by Awadhesh Pandey, joint director, prosecution, on behalf of the UP government says, “The investigating officer has found that it is not a case of UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Act UP Ordinance No. 21 of 2020… There is no evidence found that the accused Nadeem is having an illicit relation with Parul, nor has any evidence come forward that he tried to change the religion of Parul.”
Since the law came into effect as an ordinance in late November 2020, activists and civil society members have expressed fears that it would be used to target the Muslim community. Bareilly police on January 3 admitted that three Muslim men were wrongly framed under the law. With the UP government now admitting that there is no evidence against Nadeem, there is evidence to support the fears that were expressed.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear pleas against the law, which ostensibly opposes forceful conversion but caters to the Sangh parivar‘s imagined conspiracy of ‘love jihad’.