Uttar Pradesh, one of the first states under the saffron party’s regime, declared an ordinance against the ‘love jihad’, which grants five years of imprisonment to those found guilty.
The Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka governments, both under the BJP rule, followed suit and announced that a rule in principle will be brought in soon.
As many states have set the ball rolling to ban ‘love jihad’, several questions loom surrounding these recent developments — What is the definition of ‘love jihad’? How can one pin down the notion of ‘jihad’ behind ‘love’? Does it cross the lines of inter-religion marriages?
Love Jihad, according to the Urban Dictionary, is the act “when a Muslim male/female marries a non-Muslim and converts them”.
The centre told the Parliament in February that ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the law. “The term ‘Love Jihad’ is not defined under the extant laws. No such case of ‘Love Jihad’ has been reported by any of the Central agencies,” Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said to a question by Congress MP Benny Behanan.
The minister added, “Article 25 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala High Court.”
The BJP government has, so far, not provided any said definition for the term, neither during Parliament sessions nor state legislatures.
Earlier this year in October, the National Commission for Women had met the Maharashtra Governor, and said that the agency’s head, Rekha Sharma, had discussed regarding “issues related to women safety in the state including defunct One Stop Centres, molestation and rape of women patients at Covid centres and rise in love jihad cases”.
Aniket Aga, a professor at the Ashoka University had filed an RTI to get NCW’s response on October 23, 2020.
He further put out his queries, according to The Quint, to get a better picture: “1) Data pertaining to love jihad cases available with the NCW, 2) Notes/letters/memos/orders/drafts etc. sent or received by the NCW pertaining to love jihad cases and 3) File notings concerned with love jihad cases.”
“The NCW is a statutory body and the Governor is a constitutional position. When Rekha Sharma officially met Bhagat Singh Koshyari on October 20, she discussed ‘rise in love jihad cases’ in Maharashtra, among other issues. If the NCW now claims that it has no data on love jihad cases, on what basis did its Chairperson make the claim?” Aga told Huffpost India via email.
Later, after several other controversies adjoining the issue, Sharma alleged that her Twitter handle was hacked and filed a complaint with Twitter India for “suspicious activity” from her account, according to reports.
Madhya Pradesh was the first state to bring in a law against forced religious conversion for any purpose including marriage, drafted by the then Congress government in 1954, and passed in 1968. The law was under the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam or Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday said “Love Jihad” is a term “manufactured” by the BJP to disturb communal harmony, provoking a sharp reaction from Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
BJP’s former Maharashtra ally Shiv Sena on Tuesday said 'Love Jihad' needs to be first defined legally, and saffron leaders should come out of the "illusion" that they can trouble the Maharashtra government by harping on the issue.
With several question marks hanging over the law against this ‘social evil’, the Uttar Pradesh government may have to now soon provide the blurry concept of ‘Love Jihad’ a clearer focus.