gopal parmar
Gopal Parmar, BJP MLA from Agar Malwa, has asked parents to get their daughters married early to avoid 'love jihad.'ANI

Gopal Parmar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Agar Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, courted controversy as he publicly stated that parents should get their daughters married early to avoid 'love jihad.'

'Love jihad' is a term used by right-wing groups to accuse Muslim men of trapping Hindu women. While addressing a function in Agar Malwa district on Saturday, May 5, the BJP leader advocated the idea of fixing marriages for girls at a young age.

"Earlier, the elders of the family used to fix marriages in the childhood only and those relations used to last longer. Since the 18-year 'disease' (legal age bar for a girl's marriage) has started, many girls have started eloping as the fever of love jihad has gripped," Parmar was quoted as saying by ANI.

He further added: "As the girls reach adolescence, their mind starts wandering. I urge the mothers to remain vigilant of the love jihad. There are some 'goonda' elements in Muslims who adopt Hindu names to exploit girls in the name of love jihad. If marriages are fixed early then girls can be saved from love jihad."

He also spoke about his own marriage and said that he got married before the age of 18. The 53-year-old leader also claimed that he married off his two daughters and a son before they attained the legal age in order to ensure 'they are happy,' The Indian Express reported.

Parmar claimed that although he will not write to the government seeking to lower down the legal age for marriage, however, he hopes that parents ensure that they fix the marriage for their children early to ensure they do not elope.

The BJP MLA further clarified his views while talking to ANI. "The government's intention behind the 18-year bar for marriage is different, but children's marriages were fixed earlier (in childhood) in the villages then they (children) would not take wrong decision thinking that 'my marriage has already been fixed."