The government of the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India has approved a bill aimed at preventing “forced” religious conversions, legislation that critics say aims to curb interfaith marriages.
“The bill provides for a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to 100,000 Indian rupees [$1,358] finally, the burden of proof falling practically on the accused and his associates, including organizations and institutions ”, declared Saturday the Minister of the Interior Narottam Mishra during a press conference, without giving more than details.
An official statement later said that “those seeking to change their religion will have to notify two months in advance, otherwise the marriage will be considered null and void under the new law,” which will be presented to state assembly next week.
The Madhya Pradesh government’s decision came nearly a month after a similar law was passed by India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Both states are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The chief minister of BJP in Uttar Pradesh is a 48-year-old saffron-robed Hindu monk, Yogi Adityanath, an extremist known for his inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims.
“ Love Jihad ” Laws
The legislation is being dubbed “love jihad” laws, a term used by the Hindu right to refer to an unproven conspiracy whereby Muslims attract Hindu wives in order to convert them to Islam.
It is not difficult to escape the loosely worded legislation. Dozens of Muslim men have been arrested – for whom the police do not need a warrant – in just a few weeks, as interfaith marriages are a rare occurrence in the majority Hindu nation.
It is the unholy trinity of patriarchy, caste and the dominant religion that has always wanted to control the sexuality and freedom of women.
A Muslim teenager was arrested under the new law in the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh on Friday after the father of his 16-year-old classmate said the boy “instigated the girl in ‘run away with him’ with ‘the intention of marrying and converting her’. .
As they returned from a friend’s birthday party earlier this month, the boy and girl were attacked by a group of men and taken to the local police station.
The Muslim boy was convicted under the anti-conversion law and for kidnapping. He was also charged under sections of the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses Act 2012.
Laws passed in the two BJP-led states have sent fresh chill to India’s 200 million-strong Muslim minority and defenders of secular traditions in the country, who have sounded the alarm bells on India’s policies. Hindu nationalist party since coming to power in 2014 and have returned. with a greater majority last year.
Nowhere is the alleged mission of the BJP “Hindutva” – Hindu hegemony – more evident than in Uttar Pradesh, a vast and economically backward state of 200 million people.
Although there is no credible evidence of an organized mass attempt to convert Hindu women to Islam and bring about Muslim domination, the conspiracy theory is prevalent in Hindutva circles and the Adityanath government. ‘is committed to eradicating “jihad in love” with the new law.
Any relative of the bride can complain to the police, men can be arrested on suspicion, and women are forced to make incriminating statements, activists say.
Muslim boys sometimes claim to be Hindus and there have been cases of abduction of women on both sides.
But many right-wing Hindus believe the men don’t act alone but are part of a master plan, possibly funded by Pakistan, India’s predominantly Muslim neighbor.
Believing that “jihad love” is real “would be a laughable idea if it weren’t so dangerous,” said human rights activist Harsh Mander. “What we are seeing … is the complete demolition of everything the constitution has promised.”
A woman has a miscarriage
A few weeks ago, when Muskan, 22, and her Muslim husband Rashid went to register their marriage in the city of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, he found himself in prison and the young woman in a shelter run by the state.
Three months pregnant, she had a miscarriage.
“They knew I was pregnant. They still made me work, clean the room, tire my stomach, ”said Muskan, who was called Pinky when she was a Hindu. “I knew I was losing my child.”
The couple’s “crime” was the alleged violation of the anti-conversion law, which again carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
What we are seeing … is the complete demolition of everything the constitution has promised.
Muskan, meanwhile, is back with her in-laws, still suffering from medical complications. She intends to stay with Rashid, who, along with his brother, spent two weeks behind bars before the police released them as Muskan resisted pressure to incriminate him.
“I trust and love Muskan. I knew she wouldn’t make a statement against our love, ”he told AFP news agency. “I didn’t know our baby until I came out.
Muslims are brainwashing our daughters
Other states governed by the BJP want to enact legislation similar to that of Uttar Pradesh and the bill passed by the Madhya Pradesh cabinet.
Die-hard Hindu groups, the largest of which is the Bajrang Dal, which is believed to have more than five million young people across the country, are lobbying the government and the police.
He has been repeatedly accused of deadly sectarian violence, and is also known to harass couples on Valentine’s Day and intimidate Muslims and so-called lower caste Hindus accused of butchering cows – who are sacred in Hinduism.
“The love of jihad is a reality, it is a well thought out strategy deployed by Muslim boys to attract Hindu girls,” Ramji Tiwari, head of Bajrang Dal in the city of Kanpur, told AFP.
Muslims, he asserted, are “inflexible” on one day outnumbering Hindus – they currently outnumber Muslims by nearly six to one – in India by “trapping and brainwashing our daughters. “.
Bajrang Dal now conducts “awareness campaigns”, going door to door telling “our mothers and sisters that they should beware of these men who speak quietly”.
The BJP’s new mission against “jihad in love” is also a blow to women’s right to choose who to marry with and an attempt to ensure that they stay in “traditional” roles, activists say.
“It is the unholy trinity of patriarchy, caste and dominant religion that has always wanted to control women’s sexuality and freedom,” lawyer and rights activist Vrinda Grover told AFP.