Assam to Enact Laws Mandating Disclosure of Religion, Income Before Marriage

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said the law is "not against love jihad" but would be similar to the ones proposed in Madhya Pradesh and passed in Uttar Pradesh.

New Delhi: The BJP-lead Assam government plans to propose a law that will require the bride and groom to declare their religion and income in official documents a month before the wedding, according to a report in NDTV.

The move comes days after several BJP-ruled states publicly expressed their intent to enact laws to check ‘love jihad’ – a term used by Sangh parivar outfits to describe interfaith marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women, which they claim without evidence is part of a “larger conspiracy” to convert Hindu women to Islam.

However, Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed the law is “not against love jihad” but would be similar to the ones proposed in Madhya Pradesh and passed in Uttar Pradesh.

“It would be inclusive of all religions and would empower our sisters by bringing transparency…One will have to disclose not only religion, but earning source. Complete family details, education etc. Many a times even in same religion marriage we have found that the girl later finds that the husband is in an illegal business,” said Sarma.

The proposed law will require the man and the woman to disclose their source of income, profession, permanent address and religion in a government-prescribed form a month before the wedding. Failing to do so would lead to legal action against the couple, the minister said.

“There will be a disclosure pro forma given to a wife who’ll give it to her husband. It won’t be only about religion but everything that a wife needs to know,” Sarma said and added, “Our law will empower women. It will have some elements of the law in UP and MP.”

The ruling BJP’s move comes months before the state of Assam is scheduled to go to polls in 2021.

Also read: Even Sikandar Bakht, BJP Posterboy of Yesteryears, Would Know ‘Love Jihad’ Is Only a Ruse

Sarma had previously alleged that social media was helping promote “love jihad”. “Through social media Assamese girls are falling prey to love jihad… this is a cultural aggression on our society and later these girls might have to face talaq …” he said in October this year at a meeting of the party’s Mahila Morcha wing in Dibrugarh.

“When the BJP comes back to power we will make sure that if any Assamese girl is harassed or becomes victim of love jihad and is trolled on social media, by people of hidden identity, we will put them in prison,” the minister said and alleged that that “people from the culture of Ajmal (a reference to AIUDF Lok Sabha MP Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, a noted Islamic cleric) were behind “love jihad” in Assam.

“500 or 600 years ago the nation was facing Aurangzeb and Babar. Now we have a similar challenge… in this modern era we have a problem like Ajmal. Our (Assamese) society is facing a threat from the culture of Ajmal. In Lower and Middle Assam, the culture of Assamese Satras have been destroyed,” Sarma reportedly said.

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.

Nevertheless, in the last few weeks, several BJP-ruled states including Haryana, Karnataka and even Bihar, have toyed with the idea of introducing a law to check ‘love jihad’.

Last week, the Uttar Pradesh government promulgated the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance to deal with religious conversion for the sake of marriage in keeping with its promise to tackle ‘love jihad’. The state 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.

Also read: Anti-Conversion Laws See Love as a Hate Crime

The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has also recommended a 10-year jail term under its proposed Dharm Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change religion. The state home minister Narottam Mishra said that the Bill would 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.

Under the proposed law, to convert to another religion for marriage, the parties will have to “obtain the permission of the district magistrate concerned a month in advance,” Mishra said.