Lucknow: Citing a new “anti-conversion law” that disapproves the interfaith marriage, police in Uttar Pradesh state of India stopped a Muslim man from marrying a Hindu woman despite the consent of their parents, saying they would first have to take permission from the state authorities.
The police action, according to a report by The Indian Express, was based on complaints they received from members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing youth outfit founded by states Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Minutes before the ceremony scheduled on Wednesday in Lucknow’s Duda colony started, a team from the Para Police Station reached the venue and told the couple that they could only marry with the permission of the Lucknow district magistrate.
“On 2 December, we received information that a girl from one community wanting to get married to a boy from another other community,” Suresh Chandra Rawat, a senior Lucknow police officer, told a Delhi-based news organisation NDTV.
“We called both sides to the police station and handed them a copy of the new unlawful conversion ordinance and both sides have given written consent that as per law, they will inform the DM [District Magistrate] and get his permission before moving ahead with things.”
Quoting Para Station House Officer Triloki Singh, the Indian Express report said that the wedding was to be held as per Hindu rituals. He said that the couple was getting married with each other’s consent and there “was no coercion of any type”.
But, “some representatives of Hindu Yuva Vahini objected to the wedding and we stopped the wedding and told them that under the new conversion law, you can only get married if you have notified the District Magistrate for the specified period of time”, the report quoted the officer further saying. “We told them that it should not seem that there is pressure to convert.”
Asked if either the bride or groom intended to change their religion, the SHO said: “The Muslim youth wanted to become Hindu and get married. They were getting married according to Hindu rituals.”
Pertinent to mention that “Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of using marriage as a lure to force Hindu women to convert to Islam. The term was not recognised in India’s legal system until November, when the Uttar Pradesh government introduced the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
The legislation makes religious conversion a non-bailable offence, inviting penalties of up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. For converting minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, the punishment goes up to 10 years in jail.
Notably, the law was passed despite the fact that Adityanath’s own administration – the Uttar Pradesh Special Investigation Team – had failed to gather any proof that such a conspiracy of forcible conversion exists.