A Muslim man and his brother have been arrested by the police in western Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad after he and a 22-year-old Hindu woman were tried to get their marriage registered in the district’s Kanth area.
The men were handed over to the police after a group of people from a right-wing group, the Bajrang Dal, accosted the trio at the marriage registration office and stopped them from going ahead with formalities, and then took all three to the local police station.
In a 1 minute and 11-second video that has gone viral on social media, the men surround the woman inside the premises of the Kanth police station in Moradabad.
“Show us the permission you have from the DM (District Magistrate) to convert your religion,” one of the men tells the woman, as at least two policemen, one of them with a lathi look on.
“Have you read the new law or not?” another man says, adding “Ye tum jaise logon ke liye banana pada hai (the law had to be made for people like you)”.
The woman, however, told journalists she and the man were married with consent. “I am an adult, I am 22 years old. I got married of my own free will on the 24th of July. This is the fifth month that we have been married,” the woman told journalists.
The police said the complaint in the case was filed by the mother of the Hindu woman who claimed the Muslim man had tricked her daughter into marriage and conversion. “We have arrested both men and will investigate the case thoroughly,” Vidya Sagar, a senior police official said in a statement.
It is not clear if the man or the woman had converted or were planning to do so. The arrested men have been booked under Section 3 of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020, that deals with forced conversion. Both face between 1-5 years in prison if the charges against them hold in a court.
This case is the fifth to be filed in UP since the anti-conversion ordinance became law a week ago in the state amid heightened sensitivity about “Love Jihad”, the right-wing conspiracy theory that Muslim men try to seduce Hindu women to have them convert their religion.
The term “love jihad is not defined by law”, the Union Home Ministry had told parliament in February, adding that no such case had been reported by the central agencies. However, since last month, several BJP-ruled states have moved towards making a law against it.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a chunk of Muslim population, has been first off the block with an ordinance or executive order, which says religious conversions that use falsehood, force or an incentive, or take place solely for marriage will be declared a crime.
Those who plan to convert after marriage will have to give two months’ notice to the district magistrate. The person converting will have to prove that it was not forced or for marriage. All cases will be non-bailable.