A day after the new anti-conversion law came into force in Uttar Pradesh, the police on Sunday registered its first case under it. Owaisi Ahmed, 24, was booked by the Deorania police in Bareilly for allegedly pressuring a Hindu woman to convert, and threatening her parents when they objected.
The family of the 20-year-old woman lodged the complaint. The police said they had not been able to find Ahmed yet.
Preliminary investigation has indicated the two were in a relationship, and had eloped last year, before they were found and brought back. While Ahmed had been arrested then too, the woman had denied the charges of kidnapping lodged against him by her father. The woman was married off by the family to someone else in April this year.
IG, Bareilly Range, Rajesh Pandey confirmed that a case had been lodged against Ahmed under the Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Viruddh Dharm Samparivartan Pratishedh Adhyadesh, 2020, which was notified on Saturday. The government has said the ordinance is meant to check “forced” and “fraudulent” religious conversions.
According to the police, the woman’s father, a farmer, said Ahmed and she became friends while in school together, and he was pressuring her to convert and get married to him. Ahmed, who studied till Class 12, does odd jobs in neighbouring Rampur district and regularly visits Bareilly.
Apart from the ordinance, the police have lodged an FIR against Ahmed under IPC Sections 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), said Station House Officer, Deorania Police Station, Daya Shankar. The officer said they had raided Ahmed’s house but not found him.
The woman’s elder brother told The Indian Express, “Whenever we said anything, Ahmed abused us and threatened to eliminate the entire family.”
Ahmed’s family runs a shop in Bareilly. Daya Shankar said his parents and sister had left the village after the case was lodged.
The police have come to know that Ahmed and the woman had left the village together in October last year and were traced four days later to Madhya Pradesh. Additional Superintendent of Police, Bareilly (Rural), Sansar Singh said Ahmed was arrested at the time but the woman had denied the prosecution charges in court. “I have yet to check the status of that case,” Sansar Singh said.
In April, the woman was married, and moved to Pilibhit. “The family has said that since coming to know of the marriage, Ahmed had been harassing them. He was pressuring them to call back the woman and allow the two of them to get married after she converts. He last visited the woman’s family on Saturday and they approached the police,” the SHO said.
The new UP law provides for a jail term up to 10 years, with all alleged offences cognizable and non-bailable. The ordinance says no person shall attempt to convert another by misrepresentation, force, allurement, any fraudulent means or by marriage. If a person converts back to the religion they most recently belonged to, that is not to be considered as conversion under the ordinance. Any aggrieved person can lodge a complaint, and the burden of proof lies on the accused or the person who has converted.