Times Colonist

In­dian state out­laws forced re­li­gious con­ver­sion by mar­riage

- Religion · Society · India News · Discrimination · Politics · Prison · Human Rights · Crime · New Delhi · India · Uttar Pradesh · Narendra Modi · Bharatiya Janata Party · Janata Party · Bharatiya Janata Party · Haryana · Haryana · Madhya Pradesh

NEW DELHI — In­dia’s rul­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ist party has ap­proved leg­is­la­tion in the coun­try’s most pop­u­lous state that lays out a prison term of up to 10 years for any­one found guilty of us­ing mar­riage to force some­one to change re­li­gion.

The de­cree for the state of Ut­tar Pradesh was passed Tues­day and fol­lows a cam­paign by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Hindu-na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party against in­ter­faith mar­riages. The party de­scribes such mar­riages as “love ji­had,” an un­proven con­spir­acy the­ory used by its lead­ers and Hindu hard-line groups to ac­cuse Mus­lim men of con­vert­ing Hindu women by mar­riage.

Un­der the de­cree — which will be­come a law after its ap­proval by the state’s gover­nor, a for­mal­ity — a cou­ple be­long­ing to two dif­fer­ent re­li­gions will have to give two months’ no­tice to a district mag­is­trate be­fore get­ting mar­ried. The cou­ple will be al­lowed to marry only if the of­fi­cial finds no ob­jec­tions.

Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Sid­dharth Nath Singh said prison terms of up to 10 years would stop un­law­ful con­ver­sions and pro­vide jus­tice to women.

Ut­tar Pradesh is the third In­dian state ruled by Modi’s party after Haryana and Mad­hya Pradesh to ap­prove such leg­is­la­tion to check what Hindu na­tion­al­ist lead­ers call forced and un­law­ful re­li­gious con­ver­sions.

Ear­lier, the state’s top elected leader, Yogi Adi­ty­natah, a Hindu monk, said at a pub­lic meet­ing that those wag­ing “love ji­had” should ei­ther re­frain from it or be pre­pared to die.

Amid a ris­ing tide of Hindu na­tion­al­ism in In­dia un­der Modi, Hindu hard-line groups have long ac­cused mi­nor­ity Mus­lims of tak­ing over the coun­try by per­suad­ing Hindu women to marry them and con­vert to Is­lam.

Al­though In­dia’s con­sti­tu­tion is sec­u­lar and pro­vides pro­tec­tion to all faiths, the is­sue of “love ji­had” has gripped head­lines and pit­ted Modi’s party lead­ers against sec­u­lar ac­tivists.

In­dia’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies and courts have, how­ever, re­jected the “love ji­had” the­ory, which many see as part of an anti-Mus­lim agenda by Modi’s party.

On Tues­day, a court in Ut­tar Pradesh heard a case of in­ter­faith mar­riage and said that “in­ter­fer­ence in a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship would con­sti­tute a se­ri­ous en­croach­ment into the right to free­dom of choice of the two in­di­vid­u­als.”

The court’s rul­ing came after a Mus­lim man was ac­cused of forcibly con­vert­ing his Hindu part­ner.

In­dia is a pre­dom­i­nantly Hindu coun­try, with Mus­lims mak­ing up about 14% of its more than 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple.

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