As the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet cleared a draft ordinance against forceful inter-faith conversions — or the so-called “love jihad” — amid similar steps by other states, there is a sense that the law would be implemented more “vigorously” in Uttar Pradesh than in any other states. The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission, in its report submitted before the Chief Minister a year ago, had proposed such a law in the state citing rising incidents of forced religious conversions or conversions through fraudulent ways. However, as different states are mulling bringing a similar law, the Uttar Pradesh government is ready to implement.
Why are there apprehensions about the implementation of the law in UP?
The issue of “love jihad” has been on UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s agenda even before he became chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and is considered close to his heart. While the Bharatiya Janata Party did not mention the word “love-jihad” in its poll agenda in previous state assembly elections, Adityanath, even as Gorakhpur MP, never shied away from being vocal about it. His outfit, “Hindu Yuva Vahini”, which is not much active at present, had actively worked to check alleged religious conversions in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
As Chief Minister, he termed it a “dangerous trend” during a rally in Kerala in 2017 and is the first CM to tell his officers to bring in a law to control incidents of “love jihad” in August this year itself.
What prompted the state to draft the law now?
In the past few months, cases of alleged “love jihad” have been reported from different parts of the state, especially eastern and central UP. In a case that triggered the decision, a group of parents from a particular locality in Kanpur had met senior police officials with a complaint that their daughters are being allegedly trapped by Muslim men and are now seeking their help to free themselves. Later, a Special Investigating Team was formed to look into the allegations. In some cases though, girls refused to accept that they were lured into marriage. There were incidents reported from other districts like Lakhimpur Kheri.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
What is the proposed UP law on ‘love jihad’?
The proposed law cleared by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet defines punishment and fine under three different heads. Those found guilty of conversion done though “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” in contravention of the law would face jail term of one to 5 years, and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000.
In case, such conversion is of a minor, a woman from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, then those found guilty would have to face a jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000.
On the other hand, if such conversion is found at the mass level, then those guilty would face jail term from three to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 50,000.
In an another significant provision, the proposed law termed as “Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020” (prohibition of unlawful religious conversion), proposes among other things that a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” of the same is to “change a girl’s religion”.
Who can convert and how can they do it under the proposed law?
Under the new proposed law, anyone wanting to convert into another religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance. The government is supposed to prepare a format for the application and the individual has to fill the application for conversion in that format.
However, under the new law, it would be the responsibility of the one going for the religious conversion to prove that it is not taking place forcefully or with any fraudulent means. In case, any violation is found under this provision, then one faces a jail term from 6 months to 3 years and fine of minimum Rs 10,000.
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