Gujarat state assembly on April 2, 2021 passed the controversial ‘love jihad with’ after a day long debate. Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) majority in the house amidst strong opposition. Introducing the Bill Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja, reportedly said in the assembly,
people with mentality of spreading Islam through religious conversions are indulging in such acts.
Following Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Gujarat is the third state now to pass a Bill against ‘love jihad’. While in February Yogi Adityanath led BJP government in UP passed the Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021, Shivraj Singh Chouhan government of MP had passed Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 in March. Uttarakhand’s The Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018 and The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019 along with the laws of UP, MP have been challenged in the Supreme Court.
These laws were challenged even before the MP passed its law and the Apex Court had refused to stay these laws. As a result MP and now Gujarat have the ‘love jihad’ laws now. Reportedly within a few days of ordinance coming to effect in UP, the state had filed 14 cases and 49 people were arrested under the law.
Though the Bill passed by the Gujarat Assembly does not explicitly mention the infamous term, ‘love jihad’, the opposition has reportedly noted that the absence of the term is a way in which the BJP government is misleading the people of Gujarat.
Despite the Ministry of Home Affairs on February 4, 2021 had clarified that no existing law in the country defines the term ‘love jihad’ and also that no cases have been registered by any central agencies, the BJP leaders are seen using the term everywhere. For example, a report in the Economic Times observed, On Thursday, while addressing a public meeting in poll bold Kerala, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath alleged that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) are supporting communal forces in Kerala and have failed to bring development to the state. He also attacked both fronts for not addressing the issue of “love jihad” in the state. While addressing a public rally in Alappuzha’s Haripad, Adityanath said, “We made an anti-‘love jihad’ law in Uttar Pradesh then why not in Kerala? In 2009, the Kerala High Court had called for a law to address the love jihad, why has no law been made by both parties?”
The usage of the term by a senior member of the BJP and an incumbent Chief Minister of a largest state in the country authenticates the argument of the Gujarat opposition. The Bill doesn’t mention the word but it is implied. In his speech in the Gujarat Assembly Jadeja said,
Some intellectuals are arguing that it is a fundamental right of an adult girl as to whom she should marry. And that it is a right given by the Constitution. But Hindu Ramcharit Manas and Muslims’ religious book Quran, too, says not to break anybody’s trust. Marriage done with trickery is as good as breaking trust. This government firmly believes that trickery cannot exist with fundamental rights. Marriage done by hiding names is trickery.
The term coined for this “trickery” by the Hindutva forces in the country is ‘love Jihad’. It has to be noted that the term is extensively used by the Hindutva organisations to invoke prejudice against Muslims in the country.
Several High Courts in the country have ruled against interference of the state, family or any other forces in a consensual marriage between adults of different faiths. “There are 3000 sects and religions in the country. Every 25 kilometers there are different kinds of people. In this country, 130 crore people live together,” Bombay High Court observed while ruling that an adult woman is “free to move as per her wish” in a habeas corpus petition filed before the court. “If an adult marries as per her choice and decides to convert and not return to her paternal house, there can be no interference in the matter,” the Calcutta high court observed.
Writing about the communal nature of these laws being passed by states and violation of the Special Marriage Act of 1872, Clifton D’rozario and Maitreyi Krishnan note, ‘these laws are not merely communal and contrary to the law laid down by the Courts. They suffer from a gross lack of constitutional morality, which, we must remember, is not limited to the mere observance of the core principles of constitutionalism in the literal text. It must embrace within itself virtues of a wide magnitude such as that of ushering a pluralistic and inclusive society. The divisiveness they uphold is anathema to the idea of fraternity and democracy itself.’