Why India’s Most Populous State Just Passed a Law Inspired by an Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theory
India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, introduced a law outlawing so-called “Love Jihad” on Tuesday, the first of at least five states led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that are considering new legislation targeting interfaith relationships in the world’s largest democracy.
Love Jihad is a baseless conspiracy theory that Muslim men are attempting to surreptitiously shift India’s demographic balance by converting Hindu women to Islam through marriage. The narrative has been pushed by Hindu nationalist groups close to India’s ruling BJP since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014. Since Modi came to power, his government has introduced several other measures that target India’s minority Muslim community. The conspiracy has received renewed attention after a Hindu woman in Haryana was murdered in October by a Muslim man who, her family said, had pressured her to convert and marry him.
The new law was agreed by the BJP-led cabinet of Uttar Pradesh, the Indian state home to the largest number of Muslims, more than 38 million. The law makes no specific mention of the term Love Jihad, according to Indian media reports. Instead, it outlaws “unlawful religious conversions” through marriage. But the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a hardline Hindu nationalist monk and a senior member of the BJP, said at a rally on Oct. 31 that his government had decided to “enact a strict law to stop Love Jihad.”
In the speech, Adityanath also issued a veiled threat of violence toward Muslim men in interfaith relationships. “I warn those who conceal their identity and play with the honor of our sisters and daughters, if you don’t mend your ways, your final journey will begin,” he said.
Love Jihad enters the mainstream
In recent weeks, the Love Jihad conspiracy has risen to new prominence in the national conversation. In October, a television advert depicting a happy interfaith marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man was withdrawn by the jewelry company Tanishq, after receiving complaints from Hindu nationalists that it promoted so-called Love Jihad.
On Monday, police registered a case against Netflix for a scene in the show A Suitable Boy that depicted a Hindu woman and a Muslim man kissing against the backdrop of a temple, described as “extremely objectionable content” by Narottam Mishra, the home minister of the BJP-ruled Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, who is weighing a similar law.
The new legislation in Uttar Pradesh, which needs to be approved by the BJP-dominated state parliament within 42 days to remain active, will impose fines and a jail term of up to ten years for men found to have converted a woman’s religion solely for the purpose of marriage, or by use of force, coercion or misrepresentation, according to The Hindu newspaper. The law also gives the state the power to nullify any marriages found to have been carried out with the “sole intention” of changing a woman’s religion.
Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Indian states are showing what good governance is not.
The Article 16 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.