The Yogi Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh government on Friday sent a proposal seeking to criminalise cases pertaining to "love jihad". The move follows through on promises made by Chief Minister Adityanath, during the recently concluded election rallies in the state.
Under the provisions of the draft law, cases falling under "love jihad" will attract a jail term of up to one to five years. "Love jihad" is a term preferred by the right-wing to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men who seemingly lure women into converting to Islam on the pretext of love or with the promise of marriage.
Adityanath in October, in election rallies held at Jaunpur and Deoria, said, "The Allahabad High Court has said that for marriages, changing religion isn't necessary. The government too has decided to check 'love jihad' with all its might." He further issued a warning, that those "who conceal their identity and play with our sisters' respect" would be effectively dealt with. "If you don't mend your ways, 'Ram Naam Satya' (A Hindu chant associated with funeral processions) journey will begin," he had said.
The speech was prompted by a September 23 Allahabad High Court order which said religious conversions for the purpose of marriage were unacceptable. Taking the same forward, Brijesh Pathak, state Law minister told the Press Trust Of India that all steps were in place and only the proposal was awaited from the Home Department. Pathak was quoted as saying, "There has been a rise in such cases in the state which have caused social disharmony and enmity. These incidents are also bringing a bad name to the state and therefore a strict law is the need of the hour."
Interestingly, even as several senior BJP leaders, including Yogi Adityanath have used the term, "love jihad" finds no mention in the draft proposal which is named 'Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill'. "The term 'love jihad' has not been used in the bill, and conversions related to all religions will be covered under the new law," Justice Aditya Mittal, chairman of the UP law commission told reporters. Justice Mittal further clarified that the focus is not limited to Hindu-Muslim conversions or conversions for the specific purpose of marriage itself.
Prove conversion not for marriage alone: UP Govt
The proposal seeking to criminalise religious conversion or "love jihad" as members of the government have referred to it, is a follow up of the UP State Law Commission's report to the chief minister and the draft 'Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019', which proposes that "Conversion done for sole purpose of marriage to be declared null and void".
The proposal says, that incidents where the conversion was to increase the strength of their own religion or where a man married a girl by misrepresenting his own religion and after marriage, convert them to their own religion, prompted the state to move the proposed legislation. The proposal said that such incidents, "not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.
The proposed law has sought a jail term for one to five years where it is proven that religious conversion has been for the sole purpose of marriage only. The jail term is enhanced to two to seven years in case the victim (the person coerced or lured into conversion) is a minor or belongs to the backward community. The proposed law also gives power to the police to determine if the conversion is only for the purpose of marriage and if deemed to be so, the law states the conversion will not be allowed.
It also empowers a family court to declare such a marriage null and void if the person, even after the wedding, fails to prove their conversion was not merely for the purpose of the said marriage or was done through allurement or coercion.
The law also requires any person wanting to convert to give a written declaration, a month in advance, clarifying the intent to convert; conversion is done of own free will and consent without undue influence or allurement.
BJP states rush to bring in law against "love jihad"
In the past two months, at least four other states—Assam, Karnataka, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh—helmed by the ruling BJP government have declared their intention to bring in a law to stamp out "love jihad".
Earlier this week, Madhya Pradesh said those convicted of love jihad would be liable for a five years jail term. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in the recent state executive meeting said, "...in Karnataka, we are going to end this. We are viewing the luring of girls with the use of money or love as something serious. We will take stern measures." On November 1, Haryana's home minister Anil Vij, tweeted that, "a law against love jihad is being considered…"
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