104 ex-IAS officers write to UP CM on 'Love Jihad' law

'UP epicentre of politics of hate': 104 ex-IAS officers write to Yogi Adityanath on 'Love Jihad' law

The signatories wrote that in the recent years, UP has become the 'epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry'

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Credit: PTI Photo

A group of former civil servants have written to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, demanding that the latest 'Love Jihad' law be withdrawn and "those Indians that have suffered from its unconstitutional enforcement be suitably compensated."

Terming the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, which was notified on November 27, as illegal, the signatories wrote that in the recent years, Uttar Pradesh has become the "epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry." The letter has a total of 104 signatories including former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and TKA Nair, former Adviser to the Prime Minister.

The recently-promulgated ordinance nullifies marriages if they are carried out for the sole purpose of religious conversion. The law provides for a jail term of up to 10 years for any violations. Under the law, which deals with different categories of offences, a marriage will be declared "null and void" if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose. The onus to prove that the conversion has not been done forcibly will lie on the accused and the convert.

It was promulgated amid assertions by BJP leaders that a strict law was needed against "love jihad", a term coined by right-wing activists to discredit interfaith marriages by describing it as part of an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to convert Hindu women in the guise of love.

"The anti-conversion ordinance of your state is being used as a stick to victimise especially those Indian men who are Muslim and women who dare to exercise their freedom of choice," the letter to the chief minister states.

The Uttar Pradesh police made more than one arrest a day since the controversial anti-conversion ordinance came into effect a month ago, having apprehended about 35 people so far.

Also read: About 35 arrests, dozen FIRs as UP 'love jihad' law completes one month

"What is worse is that your law enforcement machinery, with the active backing of your government, is playing a role reminiscent of the secret police in authoritarian regimes. You can pose no greater threat to the nation than by turning its own citizens against one another, a conflict that can only serve the country’s enemies," the former civil servants wrote in the letter.

A PIL has been filed in the Allahabad High Court challenging the ordinance, contending that it impinges upon the fundamental right to choice and right to change of faith. During the hearing, the high court refused to grant any interim relief and directed the state government to file a counter affidavit by January 4.

Pointing that even though various high courts have ruled "unequivocally that choosing one’s life partner is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution," the letter states that Uttar Pradesh "is blithely undermining that very Constitution."

The Cabinet in BJP-governed Madhya Pradesh has passed a Bill which provides for a prison term of up to 10 years and fine of Rs 1 lakh for conversion through marriage or by any other fraudulent means. The Bill in some ways is similar to an Ordinance notified by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Other Indian states — Haryana, Karnataka and Assam — have also said that they are planning to bring in similar anti-conversion laws. 

(With agency inputs)