‘Love jihad’: UP govt clears ordinance against unlawful conversions; third state to do so

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The Uttar Pradesh government Tuesday approved the draft of a stringent law to check unlawful conversions  — which BJP leaders refer to as “love jihad” — in the state.

The ordinance provides for a jail term of 1-5 years with Rs 15,000 penalty for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors and women of SC/SC community, there will be jail term of 3-10 years with Rs 25,000 penalty.

“In cases of forced mass conversions, the ordinance provides for jail term of three-10 years with Rs 50,000 penalty. If a person wants to perform marriage after converting into any other religion, they will need to take permission from DM two months before marriage,” state Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said.

The approval for the ordinance was given at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow.

After Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, UP is the third such state which announced the enactment of a legislation to check “love jihad”.

The move comes after the state Law Commission submitted a report on the subject to Adityanath last year, along with a draft ‘Uttar Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019’, proposing that “conversion done for the sole purpose of marriage to be declared null and void”.

The process gained pace after Adityanath recently said at a public meeting in Jaunpur that those waging “love jihad” should either mend their ways or be prepared for their final journey – “Ram naam satya hai ki yatra nikalne wali hai”.

The move also comes a day after the two-day meeting of the National Executive Committee meeting of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ended in Prayagraj.

According to sources, the meeting for the eastern Uttar Pradesh region was attended by Adityanath along with Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Sarkaryawah Suresh “Bhaiyaji” Joshi. Public contributions for Ram Temple construction and “love jihad” were among the topics discussed at the meeting.

The developments also come on a day when the Allahabad High Court, while quashing an FIR lodged into allegations that a Muslim man kidnapped a Hindu woman and forcefully married her, said that “two adults are free to choose their partner” and it is their right to freedom of choice as to whom they would like to live with. The court observed that the judgments into two previous cases of interfaith marriages where it had observed that “conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable” were not “good law”.

Meanwhile, at least five Opposition-ruled states have condemned the announcements by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana as an encroachment on personal liberty, and an attempt to create a communal divide in the country.

The criticism of the move by UP, MP, and Haryana governments was led by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

“Love jihad is a word manufactured by BJP to divide the nation and disturb communal harmony.” he said. “Marriage is a matter of personal liberty (and) bringing a law to curb it is completely unconstitutional & it will not stand in any court of law…,” he had said on Twitter.

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