The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved the draft of a stringent law to check unlawful conversions — which BJP leaders refer to as "love jihad" — in the state.
According to the ordinance, the victims of forced religious conversions will get a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs, said State Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh.
The ordinance provides for a jail term of 1-5 years with a Rs 15,000 penalty for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors and women of SC/ST community, there will be a jail term of 3-10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty, Singh added.
"In cases of forced mass conversions, the ordinance provides for jail term of 3-10 years with Rs 50,000 penalty. If a person wants to perform marriage after converting into any other religion, they will need to take permission from DM two months before marriage," Singh said further.
The approval for the ordinance was given at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow.
Uttar Pradesh became the third state, after Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, to enact legislation that checks 'love jihad'.
The move comes after the state Law Commission submitted a report on the subject to Adityanath last year, along with a draft 'Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019', proposing that "conversion done for the sole purpose of marriage to be declared null and void".
The process gained pace after Adityanath recently said at a public meeting in Jaunpur that those waging "love jihad" should either mend their ways or be prepared for their final journey – "Ram naam satya hai ki yatra nikalne wali hai".
Allahabad HC's judgment on a love-jihad case
The developments also come on a day when the Allahabad High Court, while quashing an FIR lodged into allegations that a Muslim man kidnapped a Hindu woman and forcefully married her, said that "two adults are free to choose their partner" and it is their right to freedom of choice as to whom they would like to live with. The court observed that the judgments into two previous cases of interfaith marriages where it had observed that "conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable" were not "good law".
"Right to live with a person of his/her choice irrespective of religion professed by them is intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty," the two-judge bench of the Allahabad HC responded.
A special investigation team (SIT) of the Kanpur Police working on the same submitted its report to the Kanpur Range IG Mohit Agarwal, stating that girls were cheated in 11 of the 14 cases investigated by it.
However, the SIT did not find any conspiracy or proof of funding and in the remaining three cases, girls said they married of their own will.
Birth of love jihad
The term coined in 2014 with the advent of the BJP in power has been used to spread religious hatred and false propaganda among diverse communities. The so-called love jihad "phenomenon" sees young Muslim men seducing and eloping with young Hindu women and then converting them to Islam. It has launched websites such as LoveJihadInfo.com, a one-stop source for all things sexually sinister and Muslim that features articles such as "Mangalore: Love Jihad an indirect war on Hindu civilization." The site also claims that global love jihad is run by international terrorist organizations and blames the "fake secularism" of India's mainstream media for encouraging it.
As far in the present situation, the BJP and Hindutva's exploitation of this fear for political gain, especially amid a rape crisis in India, is particularly troubling. For now, the brewing hysteria appears confined to Uttar Pradesh but it does offer party elders a wide-open opportunity to denounce it at the same time.
At least five opposition-ruled states have condemned the announcements by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana as an encroachment on personal liberty, and an attempt to create a communal divide in the country.
The criticism of the move by UP, MP, and Haryana governments was led by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. "Love jihad is a word manufactured by BJP to divide the nation and disturb communal harmony." he said. "Marriage is a matter of personal liberty (and) bringing a law to curb it is completely unconstitutional & it will not stand in any court of law...," he said on Twitter.