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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In UP, ‘love jihad’ has two faces: man jailed in one case, woman gets police escort in other

Two of these cases, lodged within 24 hours of each other, present a sharp contrast — and show how police have wielded the new law selectively.

Written by Manish Sahu | Lucknow | Updated: December 8, 2020 7:12:04 am
None can interfere if an adult marries as per her choice, convert: Calcutta HCThe Calcutta High Court has observed that there can be no interference if an adult marries as per her choice and decides to convert. (Representational Image)

Uttar Pradesh police have recorded five cases so far in the nine days since the state’s anti-conversion law, which imposes stringent conditions on inter-faith marriages, came into force. But two of these cases, lodged within 24 hours of each other, present a sharp contrast — and show how police have wielded the new law selectively.

In Bareilly Saturday, police did not entertain the complaint of a father that his daughter had married a Hindu man after conversion. Police said they went by the woman’s testimony that she got married in September before the law came into force.

But in Moradabad Sunday, police arrested and jailed a Muslim man under the anti-conversion law despite his wife saying that they got married in July. The man’s brother was also arrested and jailed.

In Bareilly, police said they dropped the woman back at her husband’s home. In Moradabad, police said the woman has been lodged in a state protection home.

READ | Chorus in UP village: police pro-active, forced ‘love jihad’ arrest

On Saturday, Shahid Mian, the father of 22-year-old Alisha, lodged an FIR at Prem Nagar police station in Bareilly stating that his daughter had been kidnapped by three persons, including the owner of a firm where she had worked.

Besides Siddharth Saxena alias Aman (24), who married Alisha, the FIR named his sister Chanchal, who was her colleague at a private firm, and the firm’s owner Manoj Kumar Saxena. All three accused are Bareilly residents.

In the FIR, the father claimed that on December 1, his daughter left home “to collect pending dues from her office” and did not return. Finding her phone switched off, Mian said, he went to the office and met Saxena who did not provide any information.

Mian claimed that Aman used to pressure his daughter for marriage, which led to her stop going to work. He accused Manoj Kumar and Anchal of putting pressure on Alisha to marry Aman.

Station House Officer Avaneesh Kumar told The Indian Express that after the case was filed, Alisha visited the station and said that she was a major, denied the charge of kidnapping and confirmed that she had gone with Aman on her own.

“The girl told us that she married Aman at an Arya Samaj temple on September 29 and that they hid this information from her family. The girl had the marriage documents with her,” said Kumar.

READ | In name of conversion, UP ‘love jihad’ law targets inter-faith unions

Police got Alisha’s medical examination done, and got her identified by her family. On Monday, they got her statement recorded before a magistrate in which she reiterated what she told police.

Police said they did not invoke the new law because the girl’s father did not mention in his complaint that his daughter was being converted. However, Mian told The Indian Express: “The marriage could not be done without conversion. I had asked police to invoke the new law and look into the circumstances of the marriage. They were not ready to listen.”

Asked why the new law was not invoked, Circle Officer, City (Bareilly), Dileep Singh, said: “The marriage took place in September when the anti-conversion law was not in place. Besides, the girl showed proof that she got married in September.” When contacted, ASP Bareilly (City), Ravindra Kumar, said: “The girl has given a statement in court in favour of the youth.”

In Moradabad, however, police took a different course.

READ | Wedding stopped in Uttar Pradesh, groom says, ‘no talk of conversion… love enough’

On Sunday, Rashid Ali (22) was arrested in the Kanth area while he was going with Pinki (22) to get their marriage registered. Rashid’s brother Saleem Ali (25), who was accompanying them, was also arrested.

Pinki’s family, based in Bijnor, alleged in a police complaint that she was being “forcibly converted” by Rashid through marriage. But speaking to reporters, Pinki said: “I got married to Rashid on July 24. I have been living here in Kanth in Moradabad since then. I am an adult and got married to Rashid as per my wishes.”

Circle Officer (Kanth) Balram said: “The woman’s mother has alleged that Rashid deceitfully tempted her daughter Pinki to marry him and was getting her converted.”

In her complaint, Pinki’s mother Bala Devi said: “To marry my daughter, Rashid brought her to Kanth and we followed them here. Then we got to know that the youth is Muslim. He hid his identity…he was going to marry my daughter and she was made to wear a burqa.”

Asked Monday if police had verified the woman’s claim that she married Rashid in July, the Circle Officer said: “This will be checked during investigation. The girl has so far not produced any documents of the marriage.” Her statement before a magistrate is yet to be recorded.

Rasheed and Saleem have been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. When contacted, ADGP (Bareilly zone), Avinash Chandra, said: “I have to check under which circumstances the arrest was made by Moradabad police.”

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, promulgated on November 28, seeks to end conversion through unlawful means. It prohibits conversion for marriage, even if it is with the consent of the individual except when prior sanction is obtained from the state. The law provides for punishment of upto 10 years in jail.

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