With the BJP-led government in Karnataka mulling a strict law against what Hindutva outfits call “love jihad”, inter-religious marriages involving Hindu women, a group of organisations in Bengaluru have decided to stage a demonstration against the proposed move on Tuesday.
A group of protesters said that it was important to uphold each person’s right to choose their own partner, free from the state interference. “The government’s attempt to control these choices is in pursuit of a communal agenda, and is unacceptable to fraternal makeup of our democracy. Moreover, matters of faith and belief concern the rights of citizens, and cannot be policed by the State,” the organisers of the protest said in a statement.
Vinay Sreenivasa, a Bengaluru-based advocate, condemned leaders using the term “love jihad” while describing it as a derogatory usage. “While this discriminates against Muslims, it also undermines the autonomy of women to make choices. The very use of the term ‘jihad; itself imputes guilt on the part of one religious community, insinuating a controversy on their part to ‘forcibly’ utilize love as a means to convert persons to another religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manohar Elavarthi, Karnataka General Secretary of Swaraj Abhiyan, said, “This is yet another effort by leaders of the ruling BJP to demonise members of a particular community. Trying to enact such a law would further push the society towards permanent polarisation used as a temporary benefit to win elections.”
A statement endorsed by several citizens, activists, and organisations ahead of the protests pointed out that such a law would take away rights offered by the Constitution to women as well.
“Controlling who a woman chooses to marry and whether she converts to another religion, treats women as un-free agents, making a man liable for ‘converting a woman’. This is what the proposed ordinance in Uttar Pradesh does, and what other proposed laws seek to do,” the statement citing the recently promulgated Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Ordinance, 2020 in Uttar Pradesh said.
With posters made as part of the campaign gaining traction on social media, several youngsters have volunteered to take to the streets on Tuesday for the protest planned at Mysore Bank Circle in Bengaluru.
One among them, Raghavendra G, a 24-year-old who works in the city as a sales executive, said: “No law should be passed to curtail the rights of the people. While there is enough resistance from conservative minds against even inter-caste marriages these days, such laws will just put the lives of many youngsters under threat. This is likely to contribute to a rise in moral policing as well to promote an age-old mindset.”
Earlier this month, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had said the state government would introduce strong measures to curb religious conversions due to “love jihad”. “There are many reports about conversions due to love jihad. I don’t know about other states, but in Karnataka we are going to end this. We are viewing the luring of girls with the use of money or love as something serious. We will take stern measures,” Yediyurappa had said.
BJP’s national general secretary and state minister C T Ravi had called for enacting a strict law against “love jihad”. “On lines of Allahabad High Court’s order, Karnataka will enact a law banning religious conversions for the sake of marriage. We will not remain silent when Jihadis strip the dignity of Our Sisters. Anyone involved in the act of conversion shall face severe & swift punishment,” he had said, fuelling the debate on the topic.
Meanwhile, BJP Karnataka president Nalin Kumar Kateel last week said in Mangaluru: “The state government will push for a Bill to curb “love jihad” during the upcoming Legislative Assembly session.” He added that the government would also reintroduce the Bill to ban cow slaughter, during the winter session of Vidhana Soudha scheduled to be held from December 7.
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