Want create site? Find Free WordPress Themes and plugins.
Above: A demonstration by the United Hindu Front against love jihad in New Delhi. Even the VHP and Bajrang Dal have protested against it/Photo: Anil Shakya

To stop love jihad, UP is drafting a law, like 10 other states, to prevent conversion. Those changing their religion will now have to inform the state government within a month of doing so

By Atul Chandra in Lucknow

With love jihad having been made a highly inflammatory issue in UP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP government is now working on a law that would prevent inter-faith marriages done with the mala fide intention of converting a Hindu girl.

While love jihad is specifically about the perceived fear among Hindus of Muslims overtaking them in terms of population, the proposed law would also include conversion to Christianity. The UP law would be based on the premise that Muslims were resorting to love jihad in…

Did you find apk for android? You can find new Free Android Games and apps.
READ MORE
Want create site? Find Free WordPress Themes and plugins.

Above: A demonstration by the United Hindu Front against love jihad in New Delhi. Even the VHP and Bajrang Dal have protested against it/Photo: Anil Shakya

To stop love jihad, UP is drafting a law, like 10 other states, to prevent conversion. Those changing their religion will now have to inform the state government within a month of doing so

By Atul Chandra in Lucknow

With love jihad having been made a highly inflammatory issue in UP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP government is now working on a law that would prevent inter-faith marriages done with the mala fide intention of converting a Hindu girl.

While love jihad is specifically about the perceived fear among Hindus of Muslims overtaking them in terms of population, the proposed law would also include conversion to Christianity. The UP law would be based on the premise that Muslims were resorting to love jihad in areas where they were in a minority in the state.

Talking about the need for a law against conversion, a senior official of the State Law Commission said that not all inter-faith marriages will be looked at as an outcome of love jihad. “In the absence of law, it is difficult to ascertain if a person has been forced or lured into conversion or has done so willingly,” the official said.

The official explained that as there are 10 other states which have the law, it is not unusual for Uttar Pradesh also to draft its own law to prevent conversion. It is proposed that inter-faith couples and others who change their religion will have to inform the registrar of marriages or the district magistrate within a month of conversion.

Initially, it was proposed that information should be shared with the government prior to the conversion but this was dropped as “it would have led to some complications”.

Although love jihad has been the trigger for the proposed law, it will also take into account Christians entering into wedlock with Hindus and Scheduled Castes or converting persons using allurements “because the rate of conversion to Christianity was higher”.

As for punishment, a three to seven-year jail term is under consideration in case the victim of forced conversion is a minor, woman or a Scheduled Caste. For forcible conversion of a non-Dalit or a higher caste person, the punishment is likely to be a jail term of one to three years.

The stiffer punishment for conversion of Dalits, minors and women is because it is believed that they are easy targets for missionaries.

What is behind this proselytisation paranoia is not clear, but the diatribe against the community by right-wing hawks must have played a role. Just to get an idea, soon after the 2014 elections, the Dharam Jagran Samiti’s UP in-charge, Rajeshwar Singh, was quoted as saying: “Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra by 2021. Muslims and Christians don’t have any right to stay here. So they would either be converted to Hinduism or forced to run away.”

The Samiti was also at the vanguard of the ghar wapsi programme aimed at reconverting Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

As per the 2011 census, Christians account for a mere 0.18 percent of the state’s population. Muslims, on the other hand, account for 19.26 percent and Hindus 79.73 percent. Overall, they comprise a minuscule 2.3 percent of the country’s population. So numerically, Christians may not pose any threat of religious dominance, but for radical Hindus, they do.

It appears that the law panel would be relying on either Uttarakhand or Jharkhand’s Religious Freedom Bill of 2017 to go forward. The Bill provides for harsh punishment to those using force or allurement to proselytise the locals. When passed, UP will be the 11th state to do so after Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The fact that neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan also have anti-conversion laws is an “added impetus” for UP to have such a law.

Odisha was the first state to pass the Freedom of Religion Act in 1967. It was followed by Madhya Pradesh in 1968 and Arunachal Pradesh in 1978. The Uttarakhand law was enacted after an order from the state High Court which called religious conversion “a sham”. It ordered the state to formulate a Freedom of Religion Act to “curb this tendency” of religious conversion which, in some cases, was done to “facilitate the process of marriage”. The Court said by way of caution that the law should be passed “without hurting the religious sentiments of the people”.

With the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal at the forefront of the anti-love jihad movement, the move to introduce an anti-conversion law is not surprising. In 2014, Yogi Adityanath, who was then an MP, alleged that “love jihad was an international conspiracy against India”. He is reported to have said that as Muslims can’t do what they want by force in India, they are using the love jihad tactic here. Although a petition was filed in the Allahabad High Court against Adityanath for “spreading a new kind of communalism in the name of love jihad”, nothing came of it.

Love jihad became an important poll issue in western UP with BJP leaders going to bizarre levels to capture the Hindu mindspace and, eventually, their votes. Controversial BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj claimed in September 2014 that Muslim boys in madarsas were being motivated for love jihad with a promise of cash rewards “of Rs 11 lakh for an ‘affair’ with a Sikh girl, Rs 10 lakh with a Hindu girl and Rs 7 lakh for a Jain girl”. Muslim outfits dismissed the claim.

Several incidents of assault on young inter-faith couples by the Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini and VHP activists have occurred in UP. In one case, policemen were suspended for assaulting a Hindu girl for dating a Muslim boy.

The term love jihad, which came to be viewed as jihadi Islam’s new mantra, first came into prominence when in 2009 both Hindus and Christians alleged large-scale conversion of girls from their communities to Islam in Kerala and Karnataka. The controversy resurfaced in 2010, 2011 and 2014. In 2014, the then Kerala chief minister, Oommen Chandy, informed the legislature that 2,667 young girls converted to Islam in the state since 2006, but denied any forced conversion.

In a more recent case, the Supreme Court overturned a judgment of the Kerala High Court which had annulled the marriage of Hadiya alias Akhila Asokan to Shafin Jahan. The Court said that the freedom to choose a religion of one’s choice or one’s life partner is at the heart of India’s plurality. Setting aside the order, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the High Court should not have annulled the marriage between two consenting adults. “This is a question of influence, history, psychological and conceptual obsession of a person. Can we get into the obsession of a person?” asked the chief justice.

Hadiya’s marriage was touted as a case of love jihad, with state agencies insisting that the intent behind the marriage was trafficking. But Justice DY Chandrachud said: “We cannot allow public law to make inroads into private law as the state would then assume the power to examine all such matters.”

According to The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion, “the effectiveness of emotional appeals in converting people from one faith to another… is often exploited by religious leaders. Religious groups have utilised techniques like love bombing and Flirty Fishing to interest potential recruits”.

Whether the law in UP will protect those converting of their own choice and out of deference to the Supreme Court’s remarks in the Hadiya case or harass them will be seen once it is passed. But with right-wing lumpen elements now enjoying a free run, troubling times lie ahead.

Did you find apk for android? You can find new Free Android Games and apps.