Madhya Pradesh Becomes Second State to Pass ‘Love Jihad’ Bill
On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed the “Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021,” which penalizes religious conversions via marriage or any other means. The bill replaces an ordinance passed by the MP government in January.
Madhya Pradesh is the second state to officially pass a law involving religious conversions and marriage — succeeding Uttar Pradesh, which passed its legislation in late February. The Madhya Pradesh bill, aiming to combat the ‘love jihad’ phenomenon, was passed via voice vote.
If the communal tinge of this particular law wasn’t apparent enough, several members of the MP Legislative Assembly chanted “Jai Shri Ram” after the bill passed. MP’s Home Minister Narottam Mishra further stated that the government was not “averse to love but is against Jihad” and wouldn’t tolerate “Rafiq becoming Ravi” for “love jihad” — alluding to unconfirmed allegations of Muslim men tricking Hindu women into marriage.
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The new law provides for the annulment of marriage solemnized by non-consensual means, i.e., marriages that involve converting to another religion beforehand. It also makes ‘fraudulent’ conversion a non-bailable offense and penalizes NGOs that either fund or organize unlawful marriages. Those convicted may receive a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh and a prison sentence of up to 10 years. MP had booked 23 people under the Freedom of Religion Ordinance 2020 — which precedes the new law — in one month over alleged ‘love jihad’ links.
Madhya Pradesh also has another law criminalizing forced or fraudulent religious conversions — the MP Dharm Swatantra Adhiniyam, 1968. However, this law did not have provisions to annul marriages, and allowed bail for offenders, with maximum sentences stopping at two years.