WHEN LOVE BECOMES A CRIME
India Today|December 07, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic rages across India, another contagion seems to be spreading in the country’s BJPruled states.
Rahul Noronha and Anilesh S. Mahajan

A clutch of them have announced their intention to enact, or are in the process of drafting, legislation against ‘love jihad’, a term Hindu radical groups use to allege a deliberate ploy by Muslim youth to ‘lure’ Hindu girls into marriage in order to convert them. Once a spectre raised intermittently and buried for lack of credible evidence, the issue is suddenly receiving serious attention from BJP governments. Even though the Centre does not recognise the term— the Union home ministry had told Parliament in February that ‘love jihad is not defined by law’—it finds mention in documents released by states. Eight states—Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh—already had anti-conversion laws; Himachal Pradesh was the first state to have provisions specifically addressing marriages for the sake of conversions. Other states, too, are now said to be contemplating ‘love jihad’ legislation.

Long committed to the cause of ending ‘love jihad’ in his state, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath took the lead when his government passed an ordinance on November 24 to check alleged forced religious conversions. The momentum had been building up for a while now, with the state government constituting a special investigation team in September to investigate 14 cases of ‘love jihad’ in Kanpur, the chief minister referencing a September 23 Allahabad High Court verdict that invalidated a marriage between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman who had converted to the Hindu faith and threatening, at a rally in Jaunpur on October 30, a ‘Ram naam satya hai’ fate (a chilling invocation, given that it’s associated in Hindu ritual with the final journey) for those indulging in such acts.

Earlier, soon after a young student, Nikita Tomar was killed outside her college in Ballabhgarh, Haryana, on October 23—allegedly in a case of ‘love jihad’, for which two youth, Tauseef and Rehan, were arrested—the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Karni Sena held a maha panchayat in neighbouring Raghunathpur village, where the girl’s family lived. Simultaneously, Haryana home minister Anil Vij announced that the trial would be held in a fast track court.

The BJP governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have also been quick on the draw. Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, while addressing the inaugural session of the state executive meeting in Mangaluru on November 5, said his government would introduce stringent measures against ‘love jihad’. Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra on November 17 announced that “the love jihad bill will be introduced in the next assembly session in Madhya Pradesh”.

On November 20, Bihar BJP leader and Union minister Giriraj Singh demanded a similar law in Bihar where his party is part of the ruling alliance with the JD(U). “The Bihar government should not see it as a communal issue but a necessity for communal harmony and should consider a law on love jihad and population control.”

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