The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2020 – the Yogi Adityanath government’s new law against forced religious conversions or 'Love Jihad' — came into effect across the state on November 28.
The UP police registered its first case under the Law within hours of its proclamation when it booked a Muslim man for trying to forcibly convert a Hindu girl. Tikaram, a resident of Bareilly district had filed the case at the Deorania Police Station against one Owais Ahmed for allegedly threatening his daughter and forcing her to convert to Islam.
What does UP's anti-conversion law have to do with 'Love Jihad'?
The Law, “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020”, does not mention or define ‘Love Jihad’, a term used for Muslims allegedly forcing Hindu girls to convert to Islam on the pretext of marriage, anywhere.
According to the law, conversion from one religion to another by “misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage” stands prohibited and any marriage with the sole intention of changing the girl’s religion will be declared null and void.
The law makes forceful conversions, including through marriage, punishable with a jail term of 1-5 years and a fine of Rs 15,000. And in case the woman is a minor or from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the jail term is stringent between 3-10 years and fine of Rs 25,000. For mass conversions, the law punishes with a jail term of 3-10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000 on the organisations involved.
What does the law say about inter-faith marriages?
Any marriage with the ‘sole’ purpose of converting the girl’s religion will be declared null and void with a punishment that can go up to 10 years of imprisonment.
Now, anyone who willingly wants to convert the religion after marriage will have to submit an application to the local district magistrate, two months in advance. Earlier, interfaith couples, marrying under the Special Marriage Act, had to give one-month advance notice.
The district magistrate will probe to find if the conversion is consensual. The burden to prove that the conversion was not done through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, fraudulent means or for marriage is on the person converting or those who facilitated it, according to the Law.
Are there anti-conversion laws in other states?
There have been anti-conversion laws in many states of India since 1967. Odisha was the first state to pass a law against religious conversion, known as the Freedom of Religion Act. The Act passed in 1967 had similar provisions that the new UP law has. Later, Madhya Pradesh came up with its anti-conversion law in 1968 followed by Arunachal Pradesh in 1978. Most of these laws were enacted to target Christian missionaries. Chhattisgarh, when it came into being in 2000, retained the anti-conversion law of Madhya Pradesh and adopted it under the title Chhattisgarh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968
The Tamil Nadu government passed the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion Act in 2002. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand made the laws stringent and included the word ‘marriage’ to their acts recently.
The law passed in UP makes forceful conversion a cognisable and a non-bailable offence with a stringent punishment than laws in other states.
What is 'Love Jihad' and why is the UP law associated with it?
'Love Jihad’ is a legally unrecognised term coined and popularised by right-wing groups and BJP leaders for inter-faith marriages and relationships between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man. It basically refers to an alleged conspiracy for the conversion of the woman to Islam. The official statement issued by UP or the Law, however, does not include the term ‘Love Jihad’.
The origin of the term, it is said, was in 1927 when a rumour had spread in Western UP’s Muzaffarnagar district that a Hindu woman had married a Muslim man and converted because of the marriage. In early 2000, reports emerged from Kerala where many Christian girls were being allegedly converted to Islam on the pretext of marriage. In June 2015, the then CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy informed the state assembly that as many as 2,667 women from other faiths had been converted to Islam between 2006 and 2012 because they married Muslim men.However, in February this year, the Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said in a written response in Lok Sabha that the term ‘Love Jihad’ was not defined under the law, and no such case had been reported by any of the Central agencies.