The Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that the state government would soon announce the “love jihad” bill in the state assembly. The bill includes five years of rigorous imprisonment for “violators.” The charge will be cognizable and non-bailable. The move comes weeks after the Karnataka and Haryana governments plan to consider legislation against “love jihad.”
To date, in India, “love jihad” was not a term recognised by any legal system. Earlier, in February, the Centre said the term “love jihad” was not defined under the law, and no such case has been reported by any of the Central agencies.
The new bill will have a provision that makes it mandatory to notify the district collector a month before formalising any inter-faith marriages.
The Home Minister said, “There will be provision to declare marriages taking place forcefully, out of fraud or by tempting someone, for religious conversion, null and void. Those assisting in committing this crime will also be considered a party to the crime.”
Earlier, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP had hinted at bringing new legislation against “love jihad.” The Chief Minister had said, “Jihad will not be permitted in the name of love at any cost in the state. Necessary legal provisions will be made against love jihad.”
Hindutva’s term “love jihad” was coined to describe any marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. They allege that Muslim men trap Hindu girls to fall in love and force them to convert even before marriage. It is still an unanswered question of why these states are least interested in framing a law to avoid Hindu boys marrying Muslim girls. There have been many cases where the initial allegations of “Love jihad” have been quashed later. It includes the Hadiya case, which gained the most attention about the prevalence of “love jihad” in Kerala. This case is one of the best examples which shows the long-battled matters of faith.
In India, some of the State governments of UP, Haryana and Karnataka, all led by the BJP, are searching for provisions to criminalize an interfaith marriage. Previously, the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath warned that those engaging in “love jihad” must be prepared to die.
To date, “Love jihad” is just a term or concept that courts or governments have not defined, having no legal or constitutional basis. However, article 25 of the constitution guarantees the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health, including not to follow any religion. In addition, article 21 guarantees right to marry a person of one’s choice.
The eagerness to keep an eye on inter-faith marriages with legal support gained traction soon after Allahabad HC’s order, which observed that conversion happening just for marriage is unacceptable. The court passed this verdict after identifying that a Muslim girl by birth had converted to the Hindu religion and married a month later following Hindu rituals. The whole intention behind this was to protect women from exploitation. But the narrative is different on how the court and the country view the question of religious conversion.
Under India’s supreme law, the right to conscience is listed in Article 25 along with the right to profess, practice and propagate religion. Then how does the state impose restrictions on religious conversions, which in its very fundamental crux is just an exercise of one’s conscience?
It is crystal clear that the goal behind legislation to stop “love jihad” is not just to protect women. But to nearly destroy inter-religious unions and conversions, which has always been an eyesore for the dominant right-wing Hindutva groups in Ramrajya.
On the other hand, there were instances where the term was connected to unrelated examples of inter-religious unity as being examples of “Love Jihad.” For example, famous jewellery brand Tanishq’s advertisement depicting a Hindu woman who was married into a Muslim family triggered backlash in social media with many calling for people to boycott the brand.