79 of 86 booked under new law are Muslims
A total of 86 persons were booked in 16 first information reports (FIRs) since the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was notified on November 28 last year.
The Uttar Pradesh government has told the Allahabad high court that its contentious new anti-conversion ordinance didn’t target any particular religion and was equally applicable to all forms of forced conversion, not just interfaith marriages. But a scrutiny of the statistics submitted by the Yogi Adityanath government in court presents an intriguing picture.
A total of 86 persons were booked in 16 first information reports (FIRs) since the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was notified on November 28 last year. Fifty-four people were arrested. Out of the 86 people booked, 79 are Muslims. All these 79 have been accused of similar offences — allegedly enticing a woman and forcing her to convert to Islam.
These statistics are part of the state government’s affidavit presented before a high court bench led by chief justice Govind Mathur on Thursday, in response to a batch of public interest litigations (PILs) that claimed the law violated several constitutional rights.
In 16 FIRs adduced by the state government before the high court, two cases involved minor girls. In the other FIRs, adult women were alleged to have been influenced or pressurised for conversion.
The accused in two FIRs were non-Muslims, and seven persons were named in total in the cases. The allegations against them relate to coercion for converting women to Christianity. The cases spanned 14 of the state’s 75 districts. The families of some of the 86 arrested alleged that they were picked up on trumped-up charges. The UP Police and the government, however, say the charges are genuine.
Guresha Ahmad, the sister of Owais Ahmad, who was the first person arrested under the new law on November 28 in Bareilly, denied that her 21-year-old brother was guilty of coercing a local Hindu woman to convert to Islam. “My brother and the girl studied together. The girl later fled on her own,” said Guresha. She further alleged that the woman told police that she was being harassed by her family members. Owais, who remains in jail, was arrested on a complaint by the woman’s father.
Rajesh Kumar Pandey, DIG, Bareilly Range, said, “Owais Ahmed was arrested following the FIR against him and was sent to prison on judicial custody. The case is under investigating by a team if local police.”
In Bijnor, a 17-year-old boy was arrested on December 17 for allegedly forcing a teenager to convert for marriage. But the accused’s family denied the charges. “The girl’s family said they did not want any action in the case and she denied any attempt of conversion,” said the accused’s brother.
SHO of Dhampur police station Arun Kumar Tyagi, however, said the charges levelled against the accused were based on the statement of the girl and she recorded the same statement in front of a magistrate under section 164 of CrPc. He said that the accused introduced himself to the girl as a Hindu and tried to persuade her for marriage .
The government’s affidavit in the high court showed that in one case, 26 people, including five women, were booked in Etah district for allegedly luring a 21-year-old woman and forcibly converting her religion. According to the FIR, the alleged incident took place on November 17 and 18 – more than a week before the law came into force. The police, however, opted to invoke the criminal provisions of the ordinance since the FIR was registered later. Out of 26 persons, 14 have been arrested so far, read the affidavit.
The document listed two similar instances from Mau and Sitapur.
In Mau, 16 people were arraigned as accused under one FIR whereas in Sitapur, 14 were booked in one FIR. In both cases, the accusations pertain to beguiling adult woman for conversion. Eight people were arrested in Mau and 13 in Sitapur. The alleged incident in Sitapur is dated November 23, when the ordinance was not in force.
The UP ordinance prescribes a jail term up to 10 years and fine up to ₹25,000 for conversion under marriage, fraud, coercion or enticement.
The law came into force days after chief minister Yogi Adityanath promised to fight against “love jihad”, a term used by some radical groups to describe relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.