The UP government, as promised by CM Yogi Adityanath, brought the 1st draft of the bill which criminalises ‘Love Jihad’ (Grooming Jihad) and other forms of illegal conversions. The bill is titled Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudhh Dharm Samparivartan Pratisdhedh Adhyadesh, 2020 or UP Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance – 2020.
Ever since UP and MP governments have shown intent to criminalise ‘Love Jihad’ and bring strong laws against it, leftists are on a misinformation overdrive. The draft not only punctures most of their arguments, but it also paves way for other states like Kerala which have been advised by respective High Courts to bring similar laws against this growing menace.
Provisions under the law
Before going into specific provisions, the readers must know that this is not a law against interfaith marriage or any marriage, to begin with. Interfaith marriages are and will be allowed in India. The law is about illegal conversions by deceit and coercion. Read it as an anti-conversion law. That should clear a lot of the things.
- The act aims to provide freedom of religion by the prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage and for the matters connected therewith.
- The punishment for such conversions may range from 1-5 years. It could attract a higher penalty if the person being converted is a minor or belongs to SC/ST.
- The one who desires to convert and the one who is doing the conversion process must submit forms in the DM’s office who will then enquire about the real intention, cause and purpose of such conversions.
- The converted person must submit a declaration and present himself/herself before DM, in person, to testify claims made in the declaration.
- The burden of proof lies on the person who has caused the conversion.
- Any person, reconverting to his immediate previous religion, shall not be deemed as a convert under this law.
Does it deny agency to women?
Absolutely not. In fact quite the opposite. It makes it unlawful to forcefully convert women after or during their marriage. It gives them the choice to continue with the religion of their choice. There have been numerous instances of forceful conversion post-marriage, concealing identity while luring the girl or by other undue influence. I am not going to list them all here. However, all such instances have shown that the conversion was done against free will. And it is this free will that the proposed law tries to strengthen, contrary to what our social commentators would like us to believe.
Also noteworthy is, the bill doesn’t outlaw conversion as a whole. It outlaws conversion against free will in limited cases. So cases like Hadiya, where she was groomed to accept Islam out of free will, still won’t come under the purview of this law. Such cases of grooming jihad cannot be dealt with by law as it goes against free will. It needs to be dealt with by a strong family and social structure and the right education.
Does it act against free will?
No, it doesn’t. In fact, it provides freedom of religion by prohibiting conversion against free will.
Conversions for the sole purpose of marriage have been outlawed by courts in the past. This law only codifies such judgements. You can’t convert to a religion just because it allows you to bypass certain civil laws. For example, you can’t convert to Islam because you want to keep multiple wives. Or your family can’t convert to Islam overnight because you want to disinherit your daughters from parental properties. You can convert only out of your own conviction for the tenets of a religion.
Does it violate Article 25A?
A short reading of article 25, which is a fundamental right, before we commence further. “Subject to public order, morality and health, all persons are equally entitled to practise, profess and propagate their religion”. I guess, Islamists across the board and their handlers in the media are arguing that anti-conversion law prohibits propagation, which is a constitutional guarantee. Good to see Islamist’s faith in the constitution, however, their reading needs to be improved.
They seem to be under the impression, “Either your head or your signature will be on the conversion papers” is the propagation of religion. That is where they and their handlers in media are erring, by overlooking the first part of the article. The condition which sets the term for practising, professing and propagating. “Subject to public order, morality and health”. ‘Propagating’ is me telling someone about Hinduism, our roots, cultures, traditions and values. This is held by the honourable SC. ‘Convert or face beheading’, as practised by the Islamic invaders, is not propagation. That violates public order and health.
Conversion is not a fundamental right under article 25. A little difficult for expansionists to understand this. Laws against conversion do not violate your fundamental rights. This is not the first time such laws are passed. The Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 was challenged in court and was duly dismissed. The propagandists know this, hence, instead of challenging the proposed law to be enacted in UP, if they really believe it to be anti constitutional, they will only make noise on Twitter. Any such challenge, will be summarily thrown into dustbin under the flagship “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” and they know this.
What about dowry and domestic violence?
How can our ‘liberals’ discuss anything about religion and society without drawing false equivalence with so-called ‘evil Hindu practises’? This will cause severe Gastroesophageal reflux in liberals. So a narrative is being built with random statistics about how domestic violence and dowry are bigger evils that exist in Indian society.
I remember the first question from Barkha to Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a panel discussion, “There are so many misogynists in so many religions. Why are you picking up only on Islam? Aren’t the orthodoxies in all religions inherently misogynistic? I come from a country that has one of the largest Muslim population and women are not allowed in the mosque. But guess what, so are Hindu women (WHAT ???)” This was when the discussion was titled “Women in Islam”. In fact, the term “Saffron terrorism” was an outcome of such inexplicable urge to draw a false equivalence. Anyways, I will be digressing if I discuss why Sharad Powar had ‘invented’ a fake bomb blast story in a Muslim majority area in 1992 to make the Mumbai bomb blasts more ‘secular’.
The fact of the matter is, dowry and domestic violence are societal evils and they do exist. But what liberals keep forgetting is, there are specific laws, that also exist to check such evils. Section 498A, and the Domestic Violence act address these concerns. Have they been able to eradicate it? No. Do women who face these evils have recourse to the law? Yes. Do women who face conversion post marriage have recourse to law? No. That is what the proposed law addresses. Nobody is claiming it will eradicate love jihad. IPC 302 hasn’t yet stopped murders.
Will Gauri be able to marry a Shahrukh on the ghats of Prayagraj after this law is promulgated? Of course yes. Subject to the condition that Gauri knows Shahrukh’s name is Shahrukh and not Raj Malhotra. Also, Gauri remains Gauri or converts to Gulnaaz only out of her free will, fully aware of the consequences. This law, in no way, restricts interfaith marriages. Numerous courts have given several judgements on religious conversions. Courts have even passed orders asking state governments to frame laws against this growing menace. The proposed law only codifies the principle laid down by our courts.
India is a country where 4 major religions of the world have originated. It also has the 3rd highest population of Muslims. Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. Religion is intrinsically part of the lives of every Indian. More importantly, it has legal implications in civil laws including marriage and inheritance. Secularism can be enshrined in the preamble but in practice, in the absence of a uniform civil code, the state does interfere in civil laws which are religion-specific. In such circumstances, laws that protect religious rights should be welcome.