The BJP Government in Madhya Pradesh, led by Shivraj Singh, is planning to bring a new law in that will criminalise ‘love jihad’. The offence will be considered non-bailable, and ‘violators’ could be jailed for up to five years.
Love jihad is an Islamophobic term used to describe interfaith marriages or relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women. Hindutva groups describe these marriages as a farce, and have created a narrative that Muslim men target Hindu women for the purpose of converting them.
MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra told reporters on Tuesday that they are making preparations to introduce the “Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill.” They are proposing that it be made a cognizable offense, meaning that a police officer could arrest persons without a warrant and begin an investigation with or without court permission.
They are also considering a provision wherein if a woman from an SC/ST background marries a muslim man, she would no longer be entitled to structural benefits such as affirmative action or redressal mechanisms.
This is despite the fact that even if she were to convert, the woman would have faced and would continue to face discrimination on the basis of her caste. This is clearly a move to subsume Dalit and Adivasi populations into the “Hindu” fold while also structurally disenfranchising them.
The term “love jihad” is not officially defined by the law, and the Union Government itself had to accept this earlier this year.
But the BJP Government seems to be reiterating the aforementioned false narrative through this law; much of the attention is placed on religious conversion and taking measures to stop the same through surveillance measures. For instance, religious leader who is converting the person will have to inform and seek permission from the District Magistrate a month in advance.
Mishra said that there will also be a provision for marriages “taking place forcefully, out of fraud or by tempting someone, for religious conversion” to be declared null and void.
The proposed Bill also gives excessive authority to families of couples in interfaith marriages. As Mishra said:
Under this, the person who has been converted, their parents/siblings will have to mandatorily file a complaint for action.
This is especially dangerous since many of the atrocities that have happened in the name of “love jihad” are led or committed by family members. This move will give families legal authority to stop interfaith marriages by claiming that their daughter is being forcibly converted.
Earlier, the states of Karnataka and Haryana announced their intentions to bring in such laws to curb ‘love jihad’. Himachal Pradesh already passed a Bill last year against marriages taking place for the ‘sole reason’ of conversion. Besides planning to bring in law regarding the same, UP Government & Yogi Adityanath had also threatened interfaith couples with death for ‘love jihad’. He warned men who “hide their identities” and “play with the honour of daughters and sisters” to prepare for their funerals.