It was never easy being an interfaith couple in India. Now some states are making it harder.
Politicians in India’s ruling party are contemplating laws to thwart such unions, driven by a conspiracy theory that views them as a tool for conversions. Men who “conceal their names and play with the honor of daughters and sisters” should prepare for their final journeys, thundered Yogi Adityanath, the radical Hindu monk who leads the state of Uttar Pradesh.In recent weeks, four state governments have promised to enact new laws to combat the purported threat.
On Tuesday, the state cabinet in Uttar Pradesh — home to more than 200 million people — approved an order criminalizing religious conversions “by marriage” with jail terms of between one and 10 years. The order, once it’s signed by the state governor, would also nullify unions in which a woman changes her religion solely to marry. Conspiracy theories alleging plots to seduce Hindu women and convert them to Islam have circulated for years, propagated by “a section of Hindu nationalist activists,”. But now it has this endorsement and sanction from authority and power. Earlier this week, Arun Singh, the national general secretary of the BJP, told reporters in Delhi that “love jihad” is a “very serious problem” that states should pass laws to address. “Many mothers and sisters have suffered its bad consequences.”
Recently, police in the city of Kanpur formed a special investigation team to scrutinize such relationship after several women became involved “with men from a different religion,” which caused “public anger,” said a copy of the team’s final report. They found no evidence of conspiracy, said Mohit Agarwal, a senior police official in Kanpur.