Gujarat passes Bill against ‘love jihad’
Gujarat on Thursday became the third Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state after Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to pass a bill proposing amendments to the Freedom of Religion Act, 2002 to ensure stringent punishment for forced religious conversions.
The bill provides for imprisonment of three to five years and a fine of up to ₹2 lakh fine for marriage by forced or lured religious conversion. If the alleged victim is a minor, a woman, a Dalit or tribal, the punishment ranges from four to seven years in jail and a fine of not less than ₹3 lakh. In case there is an organisation involved, the person heading the same could face imprisonment from three to 10 years and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh.
Moving the bill in the assembly, state home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said, “We are going to make amendments to Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003... we are going to present a law before the state Assembly, that will stop people from luring Hindu girls into marriage with the intention of religious conversion.”
Protesting against the move, Congress legislator from Ahmedabad Imran Khedawala tore a copy of the Bill in the House. “Pradeepsinh Jadeja has only mentioned that the daughters of the Hindu community are targeted by men from a specific community. Daughters, be it from any religious community, will always be our daughters. I too have over hundred testimonies of Muslim girls marrying into other religion. I am deeply hurt by the words of the minister. Nobody can force anybody to marry into a specific religion and in no religion, it is written to forcibly convert anyone. In this Bill, only one community is specifically targeted... I oppose this bill...,” he said.
In February this year, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly passed the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021 by a voice vote. In March, the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly passed the MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020 to prohibit forcible religious conversion by way of allurement, fraud, threat or marriage. Haryana and Karnataka too, both ruled by the BJP, are said to be considering a similar law.
While state governments claimed to have amended the laws to curb cases of “love jihad”, where Muslim men allegedly lure and marry women from other religions (mostly Hinduism, although the first allegations of love jihad were made by the Church in Kerala), with the ultimate objective of converting them, the Union home minister, in a reply in Parliament on February 4 last year, clarified that the term ‘love jihad’ was not defined under existing laws and no such case had been reported then.