At least five BJP-led states have, so far, said they are planning to bring in laws to curb ‘Love Jihad’, a right-wing conspiracy theory that accuses a larger plot by Muslim men to feign love to non-Muslim women and convert them to Islam.
Till date, the Modi government, the NCW, the courts and various police investigations have not been able to substantiate the claims of ‘Love Jihad’ being practised by Muslim men and neither is there any available data or definition of ‘Love Jihad’.
So, what exactly are the BJP-led states planning and what will entail in the new laws? Let’s take a case-by-case look:
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday, 17 November said that the state government is considering to bring legislation against ‘love jihad’.
“Making preparations to introduce Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020 in Assembly. It’ll provide for 5 years of rigorous imprisonment. We’re also proposing that such crimes be declared a cognisable and non-bailable offence”MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra to ANI
The Madhya Pradesh home minister further stated that marriages taking place out of fraud or by “tempting someone” for religious conversion will be considered null and void.
“Those assisting in committing this crime will also be considered a party to the crime,” he said.
What does this mean? The new law, slated to be introduced in the upcoming winter session, could be an amendment to the 1968 Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act that had a maximum punishment of two years for forced conversion.
Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, on Tuesday, 17 November, said that a stringent law will be enacted to control ‘love jihad’ cases, and a committee will be formed for the same.
In a quote to ANI, Vij said, “We have decided to set up a drafting committee comprising members from the Home Department and Office of the Advocate General Haryana to make a strict law against 'love jihad'. We will also have a detailed discussion with the Chief Minister.”
CM Khattar had said earlier, after a 21-year-old student was shot point-blank by her stalker outside her college in Faridabad in October, that the Centre and the state government were taking the “love jihad” issue very seriously, according to a report by The Hindu. The victim’s family had alleged that the girl was being pressurised over conversion.
The first BJP state chief minister who spoke about bringing in a strict law to curb ‘Love Jihad’ was Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath.
In a video recorded by ANI, the UP CM issued a death threat to those who ‘conceal their identity’ and ‘play with the honour of our sisters and daughters’.
“The Allahabad High Court said that religious conversion isn’t necessary for marriage. The government will also work to curb ‘Love Jihad’, we’ll enact a strict law. I warn those who conceal their identity and play with the honour of our sisters and daughters, if you don’t mend your ways, your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin.”Yogi Adityanath, UP CM
Now, what did this Allahabad HC judgment say?
Rejecting a writ petition by a married couple seeking police protection, the Allahabad High Court on 30 October had observed that the girl was a Muslim and converted to Hinduism just a month before she got married.
Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi said that it clearly reveals that the conversion took place only for the purpose of marriage.
Justice Tripathi also cited a 2014 judgment in which the same court observed that conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable, Live Law reported. The court said that it was not inclined to interfere in the matter under Article 226 of the Constitution, which enables a high court to grant a writ petition.
Karnataka Minister for Tourism and Kannada and Culture CT Ravi on 4 November issued a statement that the state government too would bring in a law criminalising "love jihad".
CT Ravi, in a tweet, had said, "On the lines of Allahabad High Court's order, Karnataka will enact a law banning religious conversions for the sake of marriage. We will not remain silent when jihadis strip the dignity of our sisters. Any one involved in the act of conversion shall face severe and swift punishment."
Strongly endorsing his party leaders' demand to enact a law to prevent "Love Jihad", Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa also said that the government is already in talks with experts to frame a law that will ban religious conversions for marriages.
Addressing BJP's state executive committee meeting, Yediyurappa said, "Karnataka has always considered Love Jihad as a matter of concern. I agree with my party colleagues that we need a law to ban religious conversions for the sake of marriage."
Firebrand Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also warned that if his party comes back to power in 2021 elections, they will ensure jail term for anyone who harasses an Assamese girl or makes her a victim of love jihad by hiding identity.
As quoted by NDTV, Biswa said, "Social media is (the) new menace since it is helping in promoting 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 ..."