Protecting Religion or Promoting Bigotry? UP’s “Love Jihad” Law Disturbs Another Consensual Interfaith Marriage in Moradabad

Social Commentary

Protecting Religion or Promoting Bigotry? UP’s “Love Jihad” Law Disturbs Another Consensual Interfaith Marriage in Moradabad

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Right wing activists have been having a very busy time in Uttar Pradesh ever since the state government passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, on 28 November last month. Meant to combat against the supposed threat of “love jihad”, the new law has also been used to harass interfaith couples that have married of their own free will. In the fifth such case after the law came into effect, Bajrang Dal activists accosted a couple at the marriage registration office in the district of Moradabad, before taking them to the police station and having the husband and brother arrested. The couple had already been married for five months – well before the ordinance was passed – when the incident occurred.

A video of the Bajrang Dal activists in Moradabad surrounding the woman at the police station while heckling her with questions went viral on social media over the weekend. The video, taken at Kanth Police Station, shows the men demanding the woman present proof that she had taken the District Magistrate’s permission before converting to her husband’s religion. They also pass comments like “Ye tum jaise logon ke liye banana pada hai.” (The law had to be made for people like you.) However, while speaking to journalists, the woman said that she was an adult, and that she got married of her own free will on 24 July.

Last week, police in the state capital of Lucknow had also halted a wedding as the rituals were about to take place, since the bride and groom belonged to different religions. Though no arrests were made, there have been five incidents across UP, including the one in Moradabad, where the new ordinance has been invoked to make arrests. Earlier this year, Samajwadi Party member ST Hasan, a Lok Sabha member from Moradabad, had commented on the new law, saying, “I advise Muslim boys to consider Hindu girls as their sisters. Don’t get lured, because a law has been framed under which you can be subjected to tremendous torture. Save yourself and don’t get into any temptation or love.”

Though cases like the one in Moradabad show how the UP government’s implementation of its “love jihad” law can be problematic, several other BJP-ruled states in the country are considering drafting similar laws.