Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Noting the numerous cases of harassment of inter-faith couples after the Uttar Pradesh government enacted its new so-called anti-conversion ordinance, 104 former civil servants from the IAS, IFS, IPS and other branches of the services, have written to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, urging him to withdraw the controversial law.
The Uttar Pradesh government's controversial anti-conversion ordinance, in the name of ‘love jihad’, has turned the state into "the epicentre of politics of hate, division and bigotry", reads the strongly-worded letter.
The former civil servants, including former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and former Adviser to the Prime Minister TKA Nair, have demanded that the "illegal ordinance be withdrawn forthwith".
The Quint spoke to three of the signatories to the letter – former chief information commissioner and chairperson of the national minorities commission Wajahat Habibullah, decorated former police officer and diplomat Julio Ribeiro, and former Secretary in the Tribal Affairs Ministry, Meena Gupta – to find out why they are so opposed to the ordinance, and why they felt the need to write to the UP chief minister.
On How the Ordinance Threatens the Rule of Law
Gupta explained that the new law goes against numerous constitutional precepts, can be applied even where there has been no ‘forced conversion’ and that it reverses the burden of proof to force an accused to prove no crime has been committed.
Habibullah took up the case of the recent Moradabad incident where the couple had got married five months before the law came into place, and the woman ended with a miscarriage after being detained, as an example of how this ordinance was actually a threat to the rule of law.
Ribeiro pointed out that there is always a threat to the rule of law when the police are left with powers to interpret a law – especially when politicians have some political purpose they are seeking to achieve.
On How the Ordinance Promotes Hatred
All three officers also expressed their concerns over the broader narrative that the UP ordinance is part of. Habibullah took great exception to the very concept of ‘love jihad’, arguing that the laws being proposed to tackle this issue have the effect of ‘de-citizenising’ Muslims.
He noted that all the cases reported since the UP ordinance had come into force saw Muslim men who were even just meeting Hindu women, arrested and harassed. “What is this if it is not simply promoting hatred,” he asked.
Gupta argued that the ordinance would act as a dog whistle for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment and cause harassment, not just by the police, but by “hoodlums”, much like with cow vigilantes.
“I think that this particularly well crafted policy to divide people is something that we have seen for the first time in India,” Ribeiro said, adding, “In all my service I haven’t seen this type of policy that are going to make people enemies of each other.”