2 arrested while interfaith couple try to register marriage
A group of right-wing activists halted the registration formalities of an interfaith marriage in the Kaanth area of the Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday and took the couple and the groom’s brother to the local police station.
A case under Section 3 of the new Uttar Pradesh Illegal Conversion of Religion Prohibition Ordinance of 2020 was registered against Rashid and his brother Saleem and they were sent to jail.
A one-minute video circulating on social media shows activists from the Hindu organization Bajrang Dal, wearing saffron-colored scarves around their necks, questioning the woman in the presence of police officers inside the police station.
“Show us the permission you have taken from the district judge to convert your religion,” an activist asks the woman.
Another man asks, “Have you read the new law or not?”
The Uttar Pradesh ordinance prohibits religious conversions by marriage, coercion, deception or seduction. The law was enacted about a month after Uttar Pradesh Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath promised to end “love jihad,” a term used by right-wing activists to describe the marital relations between Muslim men and Hindu women.
Uttar Pradesh’s Illegal Conversion of Religion Prohibition Ordinance, 2020, was enacted on November 24. The law prescribes a jail term ranging from one to five years, in addition to a fine of up to 15,000 rupees for those convicted by law. The jail term is up to 10 years and a fine of up to ₹ 25,000 for conversions of women belonging to registered caste or tribal communities or minors.
Kaanth Police Station Inspector Ajay Gautam said the girl’s mother had complained against Rashid and her brother Saleem in which she accused Rashid of tempting her daughter by posing as Sonu and hiding her original identity. Now he is forcing his daughter to convert her religion, he alleged.
The woman, in the video, however, denied the charges brought by her mother. “I am 22 years old and we were married on July 24 and we came here to register it in court,” the woman said. It was unclear if he had already changed his religion.
Inspector Gautam seemed convinced that Rashid and Saleem were forcing the woman to convert her religion. When asked how he had verified the matter of his religious conversion, Gautam said: “The girl wore a burqa and was taken to a Maulvi.”
Reacting to the incident, Mufti Zulfikar, state president of All India Imam Association, said: “This new law was enacted only to fulfill the political agenda of the BJP Bharatiya Janata Party and would be misused to send innocents to jail.”
In a week since the law was enacted, six FIRs have been registered under it in five districts of the state, police officials said Sunday.
Of the 29 people registered, 10 have been arrested in three cases filed in Sitapur, Bareilly and Moradabad districts since Wednesday, authorities said.
The state cabinet passed the law in early November, targeting what many right-wing groups call “love jihad,” which involves Muslim men marrying Hindu women with the aim of changing the latter’s religion after marriage.
According to the ordinance, marriages with the intention of changing the woman’s religion will be declared null and void.