Love jihad, a term coined by Christians of Kerala more than a decade ago but now observed as a scourge across northern India, has led to three BJP-ruled states passing anti-conversion laws and two more contemplating similar legislation. According to a survey conducted this month, 54% believe love jihad is a widespread phenomenon in Indian society and an Islamic conspiracy to convert Hindu women to the religion of the Middle East. Only 36% said no such thing was happening.
Besides, 58% of those surveyed backed laws passed to discourage inter-faith marriages. The media survey shows that while more than 60% Hindus support such laws, 51% Muslims oppose it.
In Uttar Pradesh, for example, the police have so far lodged 17 cases under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. Fourteen of them relate to inter-personal relationships, marriages and elopement involving Hindu women and Muslim men. In three of the cases, cops took action under provisions of the ordinance where Christian men allegedly lured Hindu women convert them to Christianity. In two of the cases, the complainants have links with the RSS and the BJP.
More than half of the respondents (54%) were opposed to inter-faith marriages while 41% found it okay in the survey. A religion-wise breakup shows 57% Hindus are opposed to inter-faith marriages, while 41% of Muslims resent it.
BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have passed laws prohibiting religious conversion for the purpose of marriage in recent months. Two other states — Haryana and Karnataka — are mulling over the making of similar laws.
Secularists have challenged the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand laws in the Supreme Court.
In September 2020, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had asked his government to come up with a strategy to prevent “religious conversions in the name of love” and even considered passing an ordinance for the same if needed.
On 27 September 2020, protests erupted in India when graphic video showing a young Muslim man gunning down a 21-year-old Hindu woman in broad daylight outside her college campus went viral. The family of a 21-year-old girl student, who was shot dead by jilted lover and his associate outside her college in Faridabad.
On 31 October, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that a law to curb love jihad would be passed by his government.
The Uttar Pradesh state cabinet cleared the ordinance on 24 November 2020 following which it was approved and signed by state Governor Anandiben Patel on 28 November 2020.
In December 2020, Madhya Pradesh approved an anti-conversion bill on the lines of the Uttar Pradesh ordinance.
The anti-conversion laws prohibit any religious conversion by coercion, force, undue influence, allurement, fraud or by marriage, and makes such a marriage liable to be declared void. It makes such an act of conversion a non-bailable, criminal offence. Fourteen cases have been lodged under the law since it came into effect on 28 November.
The survey was conducted by India Today, where anchors Rajdeep Sardesai and Rahul Kanwal struggled to disprove the finding of their own employer, repeating ad nauseam during the show that the popular opinion may not reflect facts.