Uttarakhand police propose 10-year imprisonment for mass conversions - Hindustan Times
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Uttarakhand police propose 10-year imprisonment for mass conversions

Oct 09, 2021 01:37 AM IST

Last week chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami met top police officers and sought suggestions on how to make the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act stronger to check conversions

The Uttarakhand Police have proposed making mass conversions punishable by up to 10-year imprisonment and 25,000 fine through an amendment to the state’s anti-conversion law passed in 2018, people aware of the matter said. The proposal has been made in a report submitted last week after chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami met top police officers and sought suggestions on how to make the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act stronger to check conversions.

The suggestions include some new provisions on the lines of Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion enacted this year. (File photo)
The suggestions include some new provisions on the lines of Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion enacted this year. (File photo)

A police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they suggested some new provisions on the lines of Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion enacted this year. “The existing Act in the state (Uttarakhand) is very weak as it has no provisions for punishment for those involved in mass conversions...” He added in the existing law, there is also no provision against mass conversions. “...family members of a victim of forced or wrongful religious conversions can file a complaint case against the accused in court which then directs the district magistrate concerned for registering an FIR (First Information Report). We have proposed a provision under which the police can register an FIR on the basis of a complaint of family members.”

Dhami in September said information will be gathered about incidents of forced religious conversions and the so-called “love jihad”. He added police were working with more strictness against “love jihad” and the government will make the existing law more stringent.

“Love jihad” is a term Hindu groups use to describe relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women. The courts and the Union government do not recognise the term.

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states have enacted anti-conversion laws to discourage such relationships. Activists and legal experts have argued such laws could be used to target Muslims and infringe on fundamental rights.

The police officer cited above said they have suggested specific punishment for those involved in the conversion of minors and women from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. “...we have also proposed hearings of the cases under the Act (anti-conversation law) in sessions courts instead of family courts under the existing law,” said the officer.

A second police officer said the existing law provides limited powers to the police. “At the meeting with the chief minister in September, he asked why police were unable to stop the love jihad cases. We replied the law is like a toothless tiger with not many provisions in it for the police to take action unlike the one in Uttar Pradesh...Then he said the law will be made stronger on the lines of Uttar Pradesh,” said the second officer on the condition of anonymity.

He said one or two cases have been filed under the anti-conversion law in the state over the last few years. He added this included one in Dehradun against a Muslim cleric and a man for allegedly forcing a Hindu woman to change her religion for marriage in December last year.

Uttarakhand Police chief Ashok Kumar said they have given suggestions to the government, and it is up to it to make a decision. “During the meeting last month, we told the chief minister we have to make the law stronger like the one in Uttar Pradesh. We have proposed suggestions on imprisonment and penalty accordingly.”

The Uttarakhand Freedom Of Religion Act was passed in April 2018 making “forced or fraudulent conversions done through force or allurement” non-bailable offences with a provision of imprisonment for up to five years.

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