NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party has approved legislation in the country’s most populous state that lays out a prison term of up to 10 years for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change religion.

The decree for the state of Uttar Pradesh was passed on Tuesday and follows a campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modis Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party against interfaith marriages. The party describes such marriages as love jihad, an unproven conspiracy theory used by its leaders and Hindu hard-line groups to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.

Under the decree which will become a law after its approval by the state’s governor, a formality a couple belonging to two different religions will have to give two months notice to a district magistrate before getting married. The couple will be allowed to marry only if the official finds no objections.

Uttar Pradesh government minister Siddharth Nath Singh said prison terms of up to 10 years would stop unlawful conversions and provide justice to women.

Uttar Pradesh is the third Indian state ruled by Modi’s party after Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to approve such legislation to check what Hindu nationalist leaders call forced and unlawful religious conversions. Earlier, the state’s top elected leader, Yogi Aditynatah, a Hindu monk, said at a public meeting that those waging love jihad should either refrain from it or be prepared to die.

Amid a rising tide of Hindu nationalism in India under Modi, Hindu hard-line groups have long accused minority Muslims of taking over the country by persuading Hindu women to marry them and convert to Islam.

Although India’s constitution is secular and provides protection to all faiths, the issue of love jihad has gripped headlines and pitted Modi’s party leaders against secular activists.

India’s investigating agencies and courts have, however, rejected the love jihad theory, which many see as part of an anti-Muslim agenda by Modi’s party.

On Tuesday, a court in Uttar Pradesh heard a case of interfaith marriage and said that interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals.

The court’s ruling came after a Muslim man was accused of forcibly converting his Hindu partner.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020

Opinion

What a tangled web

What a tangled web

So poorly kept is this secret about the opposition’s real hopes and no plans that even the government has figured it out.
Climate threat over South Asia
Updated 26 Oct 2021

Climate threat over South Asia

Water shortages, drought, floods or landslides and tsunamis are not constrained by national boundaries.
Losing heritage
26 Oct 2021

Losing heritage

It’s not a good idea to turn Mohatta into a college.
The long impasse
Updated 25 Oct 2021

The long impasse

Management of Pakistan-India tensions is likely to remain the main focus of sporadic backchannel efforts.

Editorial

Perfect in every way
Updated 26 Oct 2021

Perfect in every way

GLORIOUS. Gratifying. Liberating. Pakistan’s thumping victory over India in their opening fixture of the T20 World...
26 Oct 2021

Balochistan CM’s exit

ON Sunday, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani’s name was added to the long list of chief ministers of Balochistan who ...
Minister’s odd logic
26 Oct 2021

Minister’s odd logic

THE government’s contradictions and confusion appear to have no end when it comes to dealing with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.
25 Oct 2021

Party to a vile campaign

THE PTI government’s hostility towards the media and its intolerance for dissent is well known. The target of ...
Financial crisis
Updated 25 Oct 2021

Financial crisis

DESPITE having progressed to ‘very good step’ and being ‘close to concluding the agreement’ a few days back,...
25 Oct 2021

Morals and Pemra

TIME and again, Pemra has come under fire for issuing arbitrary instructions to TV channels on matters ranging from...