Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion law is used as a weapon against interfaith love. Right-wing groups call it the “love jihad law” because, in their fantasy, Muslims are waging a Jihad by converting Hindu girls to Islam under false pretences to increase the Muslim population. The coming of this law is a threat to women’s liberties and is an attempt to subjugate minority rights.
The horrendous Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance of 2020 is a new low in the progression of India’s democratic journey as fathomed by Dr Ambedkar and our founding fathers.
The law takes away the right to freedom of religion and throws it at the boots of the government to do with it as it pleases.
The name of the law suggests that it is to prevent “unlawful conversion”; however, since its implementation, it has curbed more rights than restored any.
Uvaish Ahmed was the first person to be arrested within 24 hours of promulgation of the ordinance of unlawful conversion. The 21-year-old told The Hindu, “My career and image are ruined. I have a police case against me now. I wanted to enter a government job. I was preparing to join the Army. That was my main goal.”
He denied all allegations and made a strong case for himself, but his career prospects are now damaged.
The law is being enforced with full force in UP. As reported by The Indian Express, 14 cases and 49 arrests had already been made within one month of its implementation, with only two complainants being women.
On 5 December, 2020, Pinki and Rashid Ali were allegedly attacked by Bajrang Dal as they were getting their marriage registered in the court. Following this, Rashid Ali was taken into police custody and Pinki was forcibly sent to a shelter. Despite her own admission that she fully consented to the marriage, and that it is her legal right to make her own decisions as an adult, nothing could stop the police from the brutality it unleashed on the couple.
This law is not just problematic to minority rights but also takes away the agency from women by infantilising them, criminalising love and not to mention, is a direct attack on Human Rights at large.
Areeb*, a resident of Muzaffarnagar, has been with Aarohi* since 2008. However, with the implementation of the law, their dream to be together has grown distant. In Areeb’s words, “It was a dream we fostered when we were young, but it’s becoming more and more distant as the state continues love-policing. Putting jihad after any random word doesn’t make it valid. Love is love.”
Areeb’s story is not isolated.
If this is the reality of so many, doesn’t this imply the presence of systematised, state-sponsored Islamophobia, that has been on the rise for the past few years? In my opinion, it is telling of the fact that these threats against minority communities have been perpetuated with such effectiveness to the Hindu population that it is now an ideology.
The story of Shweta* is similar. A love that did not conclude because of the savage law. Shweta* and Waris* had planned to take their vows in court under the Special Marriage Act, but they could not defeat hate.
“As soon as my family found out, a living nightmare started. They were convinced it was a ploy of love jihad by the Musalmaan to capture me. Ultimately, I was forced to cut off contact with Waris completely, lest he be harmed or handed over to the police,” shares Shweta.
What is this if not gaps of freedom in the noose of oppression by the state and the police? Gaps filled by social vigilantism, which the infamous love jihad law has fired up to dangerous levels. Since the coming of the BJP, this phenomenon is not just on the rise but is also readily celebrated. As a result, the brutality of the masses has come to the fore.
Adi had to experience a near loss of his dear elder brother over a false rumour. He shares his story:
“My brother went to a mall in our town with some of his friends. A group of VHP goons asked their names and started beating them. My brother endured multiple fractures and was in a very critical condition for a long time. They threatened to kill him if he did not cease contact with a Hindu girl from his college.
“My brother and the girl are only classmates, but he almost lost his life over a rumour just because he is Muslim.”
CM Adityanath’s past election rallies have reflected that he has no love lost for the Muslim community, but the law also gravely undermines and dismisses the rights and freedom of all women. The state paranoia of a Muslim-takeover of India is evident in its unforgivable attempts at controlling Hindu women.
The law reflects the misogyny of the Indian central and state governments as they leave left no stones unturned to control the life and sexuality of Indian women. Under the garb of “prevention”, repeated attacks have been made on women’s freedom, especially in UP. Unfortunately, several other BJP-led states are taking after the UP example and introducing the anti-conversation law.
The complicity of UP residents has given Yogi Adityanath the encouragement to become the harbinger of dark times as he continues to adopt and implement strategies to isolate Muslims—right from the extreme state oppression during the anti-CAA protests to the introduction of special laws to “other” the Muslim minority.
The anti-conversion law has stifled the ideas of Equality, Fraternity and Democracy. The protests of social activists from around the country is a cry for action. These laws must be repealed at the earliest and we shift focus to more substantial matters like alarmingly high crime rates in UP and women safety (or lack thereof).
‘Love jihad’: Muslim teen walking back from birthday party booked under anti-conversion law in UP. The last three weeks I have not written a word. You wake up, you hear this shit and you recoil in horror. This is trigerring af. https://t.co/1nEhqYDtmW
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) December 25, 2020
When the Yogi Adityanath government came to power in UP in 2017, the first thing our Physics teacher in Meerut, Mr Sriniwas, said the next day was, “Muslmano apni aukaat main rehna, ab humara mantri aa gaya hai.” While we knew what he meant, nobody would have imagined the disaster Mr Sriniwas had foretold.
*All names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Note: The author is part of the Sept-Oct ’21 batch of the Writer’s Training Program.