New Delhi: Two years back, the term ‘love jihad’ was just a part of the fringe discourse, used mainly by the Bajrang Dal or the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). Today, it has been mainstreamed, so much so that four state governments — all ruled by the BJP — have expressed their intent to bring a law to contain this phenomenon.
The word ‘love jihad’ is particularly used to insinuate that the union is not out of affection, but with the sole intent to convert the partner. The proposed laws by the four states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana — seek to stop that.
The state that appears to have gone beyond the sketchy objections is Shivraj Singh Chouhan-ruled Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is comfortably placed after sweeping the recently concluded bypolls. The state government functionaries have not only expressed their desire to bring a legislation in the forthcoming winter session of the House, but one that will also make conversion for the purpose of marriage a ‘cognisable’ and ‘non-bailable’ offence.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra is a power centre in the state whom the BJP is increasingly giving more responsibilities. He told reporters in Bhopal earlier this week, “The draft bill for the proposed legislation, called Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Vidheyak 2020, is ready. The said bill will be tabled in the coming winter session of the Assembly.”
Just recently, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too had issued a warning, stating, “Jihad in the name of love would not be tolerated in Madhya Pradesh.”
The term ‘jihad’ refers to religious war. While on a broader scale, the idea is to stop any religious conversion for marriages, organisations such as the VHP claims that the phenomenon is particularly prevalent where a Muslim boy enters into a wedlock with a Hindu girl by converting her.
Meanwhile, in Haryana, state Home Minister Anil Vij recently held a meeting with the senior officials on the issue. On the same day when Mishra promised to bring a legislation in MP, Vij said a committee will be formed to draft the law for the state of Haryana.
“The home department, advocate general and other concerned officials will also be included in this committee,” read an official statement.
While Vij promised a “strict” law, the next course of action is deliberations with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
In October, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too had promised an “effective law” against ‘love jihad’. In a speech that went viral, Adityanath said, “We will bring an effective law. It’s my warning to all those who play with the honour and dignity of our sisters and daughters by not revealing their real names and identities. If they do not mend their ways, their ‘Ram Naam Satya’ journey will start.”
He was speaking in the context of an Allahabad High Court ruling which termed conversion for the only purpose of marriage as invalid. The judgement provided a legal basis to the Hindutva outfits and the BJP to announce their intent to go ahead with their respective legislations.
In Karnataka, the saffron party’s sole citadel in southern India, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa floated a similar proposal, where he cited news reports of alleged ‘love jihad’ to stress the need for a legislation to stop it.
Yeddyurappa said earlier this month, “I don’t know about other states. But in Karnataka, we are going to finish this. Luring young girls with the use of money or love is one thing we are taking very seriously.”
He assured “stern” measures while adding that he has already spoken to key officials over the matter.
While arguments can be made that the Special Marriages Act is there, its process being too elaborate and time consuming may be one of the reasons that end up having one of the partners getting converted in an inter-faith marriage. Moreover, the ‘love jihad’ bogey has now become a political issue.
Interestingly, the Catholic Church in India too had raised the issue. In the beginning of this year, the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church had claimed that ‘love jihad’ was a ‘reality’. It had alleged that Christian women from Kerala were being lured into what they called traps of the Islamic State.
Though the Ministry of Home Affairs told the Lok Sabha in February that ‘love jihad’ is not defined in law and hence no such case has been reported by any central agencies, the fact that four states are serious about bringing legislations to stop it shows its political relevance.