This Article is written by Bhargavi Bhardwaj (Law student at Bennett University)
The term love jihad first sprang up in Gujarat in 2007, when the flag bearers of the Hindu religion~ the Bajrang dal took it upon themselves to “rescue” the women who were committed to Muslim men. The term was also used after the Muzaffarnagar riots which took place because allegedly a Muslim man molested a Jat woman. Later on, the political parties found the expression of “Love jihad” very favourable in their political campaigns as it had a wider sentimental impact on the public and since then it is considered a very effective tool in exploiting the public emotions to gain votes and creating hostile barriers mainly between Hindus and Muslims.
Love jihad is an Islamophobic theory claiming and explaining how Muslim men lure the women of other religions to marry them and then pressurize them to convert from their religion to Islam. The whip-smart proponents of this theory even justify it by giving reasons for such doings which usually revolves around how Muslims want to increase the number of followers of Islam and would soon proceed to dominate the world. The term love jihad first sprang up in Gujarat in 2007, when the flag bearers of the Hindu religion~ the Bajrang dal took it upon themselves to “rescue” the women who were committed to Muslim men.
A recent ordinance passed in Uttar Pradesh named, “Prohibition Of Unlawful Conversion Of Religion”, also nicknamed as Love Jihad law states that “no person should marry another to convert or attempt to convert the other through force, misrepresentation, coercion, undue influence, allurement or any other fraudulent means. The marriage conducted for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion or vice-versa by a man of one religion with the woman of another religion shall be declared void”. The ordinance requires people converting to another religion must give a 60-day notice to the district magistrate that he/she is converting according to his wish and under no other means. The performer of the conversion also has to serve a notice of one month to the magistrate and this makes him responsible to prove that the conversion was not done under any of the above-mentioned categories.
Taking into consideration the social aspects, the love jihad ordinance passed in U.P. is not much helpful. Firstly, it focuses mainly on the men of one religion i.e. Islam and creates a wrong image about the religion and its followers. Such laws lead to the side-lining of Islam and spread hate and disregard. Secondly, the U.P. ordinance is aimed at all religions, but why is it that we as a society attack Islam like vultures and continue harassing people who are marrying Muslims?
The Hindu outfits and vigilante groups have become so blind in their quest to find the wrongdoers that they now include every Muslim and Hindu marriage under the purview of the love jihad/ U.P. ordinance. It has been seen that such nuisance spreading elements of the society are also spoiling the relations of the existing inter-faith marriage couples and pose a threat to the ones who believe that love has no boundaries and can’t be limited by religion.
Thirdly, it attacks personal liberty and undermines the status of women in society. Even if a woman gives her consent it is not held valid legally, i.e. even after affirming that she accepted to convert her religion not under any pressure but according to her own will, it is her ‘spouse’ who is burdened with onus, that the conversion was not done under any pressure.
The ordinance also provides a good opportunity to the family members of the couples to report them. One example of such potential misuse is the famous Hadiya case, also known Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M & ORS (2016).
In this case the parents of the Hadiya (formerly known as Akhila), filed a writ petition of Habeas Corpus in the Kerala High Court to bring back their daughter from the apparent “bogus” marriage she solemnised with a Muslim man after converting her religion with her own consent. The parents were emphasizing that she had been brainwashed and forced to marry the Muslim man.
The Kerala High Court gave the decision in the favour of the parents and annulled her marriage. However, the SC made sure that her marriage was restored after being declared annulled and secured her personal freedom.
Fourthly, the term jihad, interpreted and used by the Indian society is the one used in the context of terrorism. The terrorists who claim to be the followers of Islam symbolize the word jihad with the battle fought against the enemies of Islam. But in the holy Quran, the word jihad represents the battle one fights with their inner bad self and let the good in them shine.
However, the impressionable minds of Indian society are hardly aware of its correct meaning and the basic idea about it. They connect it with wrong references and this is very disrespectful to the religion as well as the sentiments of the followers. Such misinformation is also spread by various politicians during their rallies and absurd propaganda strategies. The spread of such misinformation sows the seeds of hatred and mistrust so deep that it impacts not only the whole community but the coming generations as well. This can lead to violent strifes and communal riots, followed by cold-blooded murders and enhancing the risk of creating more internal communal disturbances and endangering the peace of the nation.
Considering the legal aspects of this ordinance, it can be very well ascertained that it violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution Of India. It is violative of Article 21, which grants the citizens the right to life and the right to make one’s own choices.
It also overlooks Article 25 which grants the citizens the autonomy to profess and propagate one’s religion and to change their religion and faith. It gives a blow to the Special Marriage Act 1954 designed to provide legal sanctity to interfaith marriages. Under this act, the to-be-married couples provide notice 30 days before the decided marriage date to the marriage officer who then collects all the relevant details and puts it up at the marriage office, and within those 30 days, anyone can object to the marriage which then creates hindrances for the couples waiting to tie the knot.
In such cases, it depends on the marriage officer to uphold the objection or not and the final decision lies in the hands of the district court if the case is appealed further. Recently, many incidents have come forward where the to-be married couples were wrongly taken into custody and harassed for no reason at all. In Kushinagar, a Hindu woman after converting her religion was marrying a Muslim guy but their marriage was subjected to various inappropriate questions due to a mere phone call to the police station.
Similarly, another incident was reported in Lucknow where an ongoing inter-faith wedding was stopped by the overzealous police and directed them to first procure the District Magistrate’s approval. Such over-enthusiasm of the police has spoiled the D-day of many couples and continue to do so as there is no prescribed restraint available.
The love jihad ordinance allows and normalizes the police and other religious outfits to access their marital data from the marriage office and then to interfere where they aren’t actually required to. The excessive policing has resulted in them, being extremely intrusive and nebby. It also threatens the life of the already married and to-be-married couples because in order to uphold the law and apparently “protect” the sanctity of their respective religions the religious outfits will go to any extent to make sure they succeed in their expedition. Hence, this ordinance reveals, the high number of loopholes that exist and in how many ways it can be misused and exploited by the vigilante groups, the flagbearers of the various religions and communities and the family members to impose their arbitrary will.
So is it true that forceful conversions don’t exist?
Well, forming this notion is also not correct. Forceful conversions do exist and take place almost every day ever so slyly and in shady places. But it isn’t like people get forcefully converted under various pressures to Islam only! There also have been cases of forceful conversion of women of various religions to Christianity in Kerala and Goa. But they have been comparatively less highlighted by the media and isn’t able to gather so much attention nationwide.
The number of conversions to other religions excluding Islam is indeed fewer in number. Again, it is also wrong to form such rigid perceptions against one religion just because there tend to be more people from that religion involving in such transgressions. The wrongdoings of human beings are irrespective of their religion. No religion preaches the spread of hate or incites committing acts that will hurt others and cause them mental or emotional trauma. The people who are involved in such wrongful acts aren’t the true followers of their religion and whenever they claim that whatever they are doing, are doing in the name and at the command of their ultimate superior being, they should not be taken seriously at all because it is based on no valid justification or sensible argument. They just use the name of the almighty to serve their ill motives and hide behind His name.
What should be the real remedy for all the issues pertaining to love jihad?
In my exclusive opinion, passing laws like the U.P. ordinance is not a good way to combat such issues, or it requires a lot of refinement to be able to serve its true meaning and purpose without any discrimination to one particular religion. The police and the Hindu vigilante groups who have been over-excited to put the ordinance to effect should be restrained with some laws and be more well-informed about the law. They should have an in-depth understanding of the relation/marriage of the people they are aiming to apply the law to. Another course that can be opted is to form stricter and more clear laws that can help in differentiating the wrongdoers from the people who wilfully have converted their religion.
The law should also take into consideration the consent of the women and should not impose the liability to prove the validity of the religious conversion on the husband. The liability should be imposed on the husband only in some rare cases. Lastly, a change in the mentality of society is a must! This, of course, can’t be achieved overnight. But proper education and a curb on the spreaders of misinformation should be practised. The impressionable minds should be explained how the politicians sometimes play the communal card and not everything they say or believe is true. We should try and follow what Martin Luther King Jr. very aptly quoted, “ stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear !!”
- GUPTA, C. (2009). Hindu Women, Muslim Men: Love Jihad and Conversions . JSTOR, 13-15.
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