Love Jihad: Just Another Conspiracy Theory or India’s Reality
Madhya Pradesh registered the first case of love-jihad on January 18, 2021. A 22-year-old female resident of Barwani district reportedly accused a 25-year-old Muslim male of physical and sexual assault over her refusal to accept his marriage proposal and convert to Islam. According to Inspector-in-Charge, Rajesh Yadav, the accused had initially identified as belonging to the same community, but later started forcing her to marry him and convert to his community. According to the Freedom of Religious Ordinance (2020) of Madhya Pradesh, the accused has been booked under charges of assault, rape and criminal intimidation.
A key provision of the Freedom of Religious Ordinance (2020) of the state of Madhya Pradesh is the prohibition imposed upon involuntary conversion from one religion to another, particularly under notable instances of “misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat or force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means” (Preamble of the Ordinance).
This is in resonance with the tenets of the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance (2020) of Uttar Pradesh, where close to a fifth of the population identified as Muslim. Couples from different religious communities must mandatorily provide at least two months prior notice to a district magistrate before getting married. Under the terms exemplified by the Ordinance, the presiding officer would then be at discretion to ascertain if the conversion was through compulsion. If found to be guilty of coercion, the penalty charges to the offending person include fines amounting to INR 50,000 and jail term extending up to ten years.
Since its effect form November 28, 2020, the UP police have registered a total of 14 cases, i.e., 14 love jihad real stories; 13 of them involving adult Hindu women (i.e., above the age of 18) allegedly being pressured to convert to Islam. The arrests have been made in Etah, Sitapur, Greater Noida, Shahjahanpur, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Kannauj, Bareilly and Hardoi. The case in Bareilly was registered just a day after the Ordinance was put into effect.
In Muzaffarnagar, accused Nadeem (aged 34) was booked along with his accomplice, a friend named Suleman, for purportedly harassing and compelling the wife of a private contractor to convert and marry him. Nadeem and Suleman were employed as factory laborers in Haridwar, where the contractor was earlier based. In his report, the contractor stated that Nadeem would often frequent his house and developed a close friendship with his wife over time. After the incident, the contractor was forced to shift base with his wife and family to Muzaffarnagar.
In Hardoi, a case was filed against Mohammad Azad (aged 24) for his alleged attempt to rape and forcibly convert a 19-year-old female. She claimed that she had been in a relationship with the accused for 24 months. During the same period, she had been raped repeatedly on the pretext of marriage and later forced to convert. She also mentioned that she grew to be suspicious of his intent to take her to Delhi and get her involved in the trafficking trade.
In Bijnor, accused Mohammad Afzal (aged 22), a daily-wage laborer, was arrested on charges of reportedly abducting a 19-year-old female. She was first reported missing from Bijnor by her family, who were on a visit to attend a relative’s wedding. An FIR report was lodged after she was sighted two days later in Bijnor with the accused.
In the infamous ‘Meerut Love-Jihad Case’ (2020), accused Shamshad was arrested following a retaliatory firing after he opened fire at the police during his attempt to flee. According to police investigative reports, Shamshad had been on the run since the police discovered corpses of a woman named Priya and her two-year-old daughter buried inside his house in an eight-foot bottomless pit. The woman and daughter duo had reportedly been living with Shamshad for the last five years. Shamshad had befriended the woman on Facebook under a fake alias- Amit Gurjar in 2013. Over time, the accused invited her to Meerut on the pretext of marrying her, and they began living together in his flat in Kashiram Colony. Before her death, the woman came to know about his real identity, ultimately resulting in her death.
The love-jihad laws have been met with significant public uproar and outrage over their potential for abhorrent misuse. There have been several instances of police officials harassing interfaith couples merely over complaints, with little to no evidence of inter-faith conversion on unlawful, coercive grounds. In such an instance, it becomes crucial to question where we, as consumers of information and responsible citizens, draw our tolerance? Is love jihad real? Or are we crying wolf? Its perceptive implications for our country’s Muslim populace might be bogus and arbitrary, and undoubtedly discriminatorily criminal. But are we in a position to be observant when there arises a forced interfaith conversion case that deserves our unbiased attention?
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