Why The Love Jihad Bill Is The Need Of The Hour.

Harsh Sanghavi

May 02, 2021

Don't Hindu girls have equal human rights and the right to live a dignified life as well?

What is Love Jihad?
Love Jihad in the simplest term can be defined as members of other religious communities lure young women of the Hindu community with the intention of religious conversions under the pretext of marriage.

What is Love Jihad Law?
Love Jihad law basically seeks to punish those who forcibly coerce or entice a member from the targeted community to marry them with the sole intention of conversions.

What does 'The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill 2021' against love jihad constitute
On 1st April, the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha passed the 'Gujarat Freedom of Religious Act, 2021 which seeks to amend the Gujarat Freedom of Religious Act, 2003 to bring more stringent punishment against those practicing religious conversions through marriage. The new law will carry a maximum jail term of 7 years and a maximum fine of Rs 3 lakh. A similar law has also been enacted in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Act was introduced in 2003, after which the first amendment took place in 2006. This Act deals with religious conversion through 'allurement, force or by misrepresentation or by any other fraudulent means'. This 2021 amendment seeks to expand the purview of the act, to include 'religious conversions through marriage' by promising a better lifestyle, divine blessings and impersonation.

Breaking the myths of the Love Jihad Bill
As alleged by the opposition, the bill does not seek to target the members of religious communities, but rather it seeks to protect the members of the targeted community and our vulnerable girls several of them who belong to poor families. The real motive behind bringing the bill is to ensure that the girls do not fall for the interfaith marriage' done through trickery.

This bill essentially aims at bringing a halt to religious conversions by force and punishes those who use fraudulent means to marry a girl with the sole purpose of religious conversions. However, this bill is also robust as it does not target those couples who marry willingly and out of love. The bill has clear provisions which ensure the same.

The accused has the right to prove that a religious conversion was not affected or done through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any other fraudulent means. Such marriages will be considered legal and won't be penalised. The core and only reason to introduce the bill is to ensure that our girls and their rights are protected.

Ground Story
What is astonishing is that only in one area in my city, Surat, there were three reported cases of Love Jihad. In a particular case, a Muslim boy aged 24 years persuaded a 14 year old girl belonging to the targeted community to steal money from the house and run away with him. The boy worked at a local grocery store and the girl visited the shop to buy things. The boy convinced the girl to run away with him through the use of fraudulent means and allurement. The girl was quite young, naive and clearly under-aged to understand the motives of the boy. Ultimately, a FIR was registered and the girl has safely returned to her home while the boy is locked up. This bill essentially aims to penalise the accused and protects the girl who are young and unaware. Those who wish to paint a communal picture to this bill are doing a disservice to the society and are disconnected from the ground reality.

Understanding how Love Jihad/ Religious Conversions happen
In order for any law to be effective and to ensure that there is a public support for the bill, it is crucial that citizens understand the bill and their implications thoroughly. Illustrations are useful to comprehend how love jihad is practised in society. For Example, members of the other religious communities use fake names (Hindu names) to convince girls of the targeted community to marry them. They pretend to belong to a rich family and lure girls from poor families by showing them an opulent lifestyle. Or they marry girls from the targeted communities who are rich and exploit them for their money and ultimately divorce them, leaving girls in a vulnerable state. These are just few instances how love jihad takes places.

Why the Opposition is wrong
In a functioning democracy, all parties have a right to disagree. The very core value of a healthy democracy lies in the fact that differing opinions can co-exist and forums like The Legislative Assembly are platforms to debate and deliberate on issues which matter to the public.

However, in the heated debate inside the Assembly halls, had the Congress Party raised valid questions concerning the bill, it would be addressed appropriately. Instead, they resorted to name-calling and using terms like unsecular, communal to label the bill. They went to the extent of calling it an ‘Anti-Muslim’ bill.

What is truly unfortunate is that the Congress Party did not once express remorse or even empathised for those families who suffer when men from other religious communities lure their girls, some of them who are under-aged to marry them and use them only for the sake of religious conversions. It is not entirely surprising that a party is which so truly detached and lost touch with the ground reality, will find it difficult to believe what is actually happening in the society and how thousands of families and girls suffer everyday.

An appeal to all
This is my humble appeal that this is an issue which concerns each and every individual and for this very reason, members of all religious communities and the entire society should get together to support this bill and protect our girls.

The people who engage in such forceful religious conversions are ‘Anti-humanity’, and this bill seeks to protect the girls and families who are suffering, the spirit of the bill is that is ‘Pro-humanity’. This bill is not a matter of ‘vote bank politics’, it strives to penalise and punish those members of the religious communities who take advantage of our girls. I hope that in the coming days parties across state governments support this bill, and take actions to implement the law. I appeal to every conscious Indians and especially those with power and influence, to spread awareness on what is an organised crime done with systematic planning to mislead under-aged and young girls.

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