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Boon Or Bane: What Does The Anti-Conversion Law Mean For Inter-Faith Couples?

अपनी मोहब्बत की पाक्साज़ी का सबूत जब सर-ए-बज़ार दिया

तब एहसास हुआ की मैने प्यार नही गुनाह किया

(When I swore the purity of my love in public, I realised I hadn’t loved but sinned)

What Is The So-Called ‘Love Jihad’?

On 27th November 2020, The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance was promulgated. This will help the Uttar Pradesh government in their fight against ‘love jihad’ through which Muslim men are allegedly converting young Hindu women under pretenses.

Representational Image. Special marriage Act allows inter-faith marriages without undergoing conversion, but this comes with its own terms and conditions.

I emphasize the word ordinance because it is different from an act in the way it is passed. When the legislature of the Union is not in session, and there is an urgent need to enforce an act, the government passes a proposal which, when approved by the President or Governor, becomes an ordinance.

Simply speaking, an ordinance is the equivalent of an Act; but is not passed by the legislature. So what was this “emergency” that the BJP led Uttar Pradesh government could not wait for the legislature to be back in session and had to pass an ordinance?

Well, your guess is as good as mine. But it raises an important question that if the ruling party passes laws without public consultation stating emergencies, then is that not fundamentally against the principles of Democracy?

What Does The Law Say?

While this anti-conversion law affects many aspects of human life, the most pronounced effect is on inter-faith marriages. If you are a Hindu woman thinking of marrying a Muslim man, think again. If you are still determined to marry him, these are the few, very simple steps that you have to follow now.

Step 1: Give a declaration at least 60 days in advance to the DM stating that you are converting your religion on your own without any force, allurement, or undue influence. If you do not send this declaration, then you can be imprisoned for a term not less than 6 months, but may extend to 3 years and will also be liable to a fine not less than Rs. 10000.

Step 2: The religious convertor, who would be performing the conversion ceremony, also has to give a declaration 30 days in advance to the DM stating where the ceremony would be taking place. Whoever contravenes this provision will be imprisoned for a term not less than 1 year, but may extend to 5 years and liable to a fine not less than Rs. 25000.

This definitely simplifies the search for a religious convertor.

You are ignorant if you think these are all the steps.

Step 3: After receiving the declarations, the DM will then get an inquiry conducted through policy with regard to the “real” intention, purpose and cause of the proposed religious conversion.

You have now converted to another religion and are counting the days leading to your marriage. Well, better to keep a buffer of 60 additional days because here comes.

Step 4: You have to send another declaration to the DM within 60 days of the conversion, intimating about the conversion.

Step 5: Since you can be drugged and forced into signing and sending all the declarations of Step 1, 2, and 4, you now have to appear in front of the DM within 21 days of sending the declaration to establish your identity and confirm the contents of the declaration.

If you fail to follow steps 3, 4, and 5, the conversion will be declared illegal and void.

Also, the burden of proof that religious conversion was not done through misrepresentation or force lies on the person who has caused the conversion. So if a woman is converting to another religion, men, please make sure you have sufficient WhatsApp chats, voice notes, and love letters at all times where the woman confirms that she is converting out of the pure free will.

Why Was This Ordinance Passed By The UP Governor Anandiben Patel?

Defending the anti-conversion law, Anandiben Patel mentions “surveys” that showed the need for this law. However, there are no such survey results available online for the public to see. The National Investigation Agency and National Commission for Women do not have any data on “love jihad” either.

Since the 1 month of the anti-conversion law, 14 cases have been filed, and 51 arrests have been made. Of these, in only 2 cases, the complainant is actually the woman.

Another “totally unrelated” fact is that Anandiben Patel also belonged to the Bhartiya Janta Party before becoming the governor.

Is There A Way To Marry Someone From Another Religion Without Converting?

This is where the Special Marriage Act comes into play. This act allows inter-faith marriages without undergoing conversion, but hold on before you get too happy about it. Before solemnizing your marriage, a 30-day notice has to be published, and objections are invited from the public at large.

So, if you were planning to elope because your family objects to your marriage, this notice will bring you back to square one. On 13th January 2021, the Allahabad High Court gave a verdict to remove this mandatory publication of notice under the Special Marriage Act. This petition, however, is pending with the Supreme Court.

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already implemented these laws, and other states will soon follow suit. We can either chose not to marry the person we love or chose to speak against these laws. But we must choose.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay
Image is for representation purposes only.
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