Police in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have arrested a Muslim man for allegedly trying to convert a Hindu woman to Islam.
Backlash Against ‘Love Jihad’ Law
He is the first to be arrested under a new anti-reform law aimed at “love jihad” – a term used by powerful Hindu groups to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women to marriage.
The law has created anger, with critics calling it Islamophobic.
At least four other Indian states are writing laws against “love jihad”.
The First Arrest Under This Law
Police in the Bareilly region of Uttar Pradesh confirmed the arrest on Twitter on Wednesday.
The woman’s father told BBC Hindi that he had filed a complaint because the man was “putting pressure” on his daughter to change and threatened her if she did not agree. The woman allegedly had an affair with the man but married someone else earlier this year.
Police told BBC Hindi that the woman’s family filed a kidnapping case last year but the case was closed after she was found guilty and denied the charge.
After his arrest on Wednesday, the man was given nineteen days in custody. He told reporters he was innocent and “had no contact with the woman”.
The new law carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and the charges under it are not found.
About The New Law
In November, Uttar Pradesh became the first state to legislate against “forced” or “fraudulent” religious reforms.
But it may not be the last one as at least four other provinces – Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam – have said they plan to introduce laws against “love jihad”. All five provinces are controlled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is accused of adopting anti-Muslim sentiments.
Critics have called it reprehensible and annoying, with many worried that such laws would lead to abuse and harassment because “love jihad” has long been seen as a term used by right-wing Hindu groups. It is not a legally recognized name in Indian law.
But it has been in the news for the past few months – in October, a popular jewelry manufacturer withdrew an ad featuring various couples after being attacked by food wings accusing them of promoting “love jihad”.
Then in November, authorities similarly accused Netflix, pointing to the location of the television series, Worthy Boy, in which a Hindu woman and a Muslim man shared a kiss as the camera approached the back of a Hindu temple. The Minister of Home Affairs in Madhya Pradesh, Narottam Mishra, said this was detrimental to “religious sentiments” and instructed officials to take legal action against the producer and director of the series.
Critics of the BJP say religious divisions have increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Hindu and Muslim marriages have long attracted criticism in India but adherence to the deepest motive for them is the latest trend.