India is known for diversity, its diverse culture and the harmony among different religions. But recently a law introduced by Uttar Pradesh government on 28th November, The UP Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 is presenting India globally, differently. The law clearly makes conversion of religion while marriage non bailable with up to 10 years of imprisonment if undertaken unlawfully and ask for approval of district magistrate, in Uttar Pradesh. Whereas four more states having the government of ruling party BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party), are planning to bring this law. As per the spokesperson of the party such laws are needed to stop misrepresentation, fraud and deception.
Tanveer Khan who is in hospitality profession and is currently working in leading lifestyle hotel in Dubai told Eat News, “I am confused, disappointed and worried why do we need such laws in today’s time. Don’t we have another more serious matters in our hand. Yes, authorities can regulate the act of forced conversions and look into the cases where people are being converted under false promise of wealth, education, misrepresentation and force.“
He said “I feel more worried about the misuse of such laws which empowers family members to slap criminal cases on couples who got married defying their families. I heard about a case where police heard a rumor about an intercaste marriage. Without any interrogation and evidence police took the groom and tortured him all night and later the family of bride who was Hindu cleared about both families consent in marriage.“ He further added, “A law should never threaten fundamental rights of the citizens. And this law is directly violating right to choose, right to privacy, right to freedom of religion. The state has no role to play in the personal choice of individuals. Such policing powers over citizens are against human dignity and personal liberty.“
Recently a case popped up on media channels of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh where cops detained a couple over rumors of “conversion of religion during marriage“. Cops stopped the wedding and locked up the couple in police station until the situation was cleared by the family members. According to reports, Haider Ali, the groom also alleged that he was beaten up by the belt and was tortured by the police. At the same time police authorities denied the allegations.
According to the reports, since the law has been passed 10 people have been arrested for interfaith relationships in Uttar Pradesh under this law and the dozens of weddings have been stopped by the cops. To which a PIL(Public interest litigation) is filed by two advocates on November 30 which says these provisions gives state policing powers to have a right on citizen’s choice of life partners or religion. The PIL states, “The ordinance assumes a tone-deaf position to the latest ruling of the High court which is in line with the expansive meaning given to personal liberty by the supreme court in various verdicts, quoted by FPJ(Free Press Journal) correspondent in a report.“
Tanveer says, “We have all grown up hearing the stories of Radha and Krishna, Sita and Ram where the love has been celebrated. We do not need such laws. I have a friend she is Hindu and will be getting married with a Muslim boy soon and now thinking about it worries me that such law will bring the shadow of criminality over every interfaith marriage.“
Along with men of Muslim community, girls of Hindu community are also irresolute when it comes to this law. More than serving the motive of conversions done forcibly will come to an end through this law while marriage, people are in fear that the law can be misused and can be shaped according to their convenience. Swati Gandhi, working as an executive in Times Network said, “As a Hindu girl, I feel that the law can help those girls who are genuinely facing the brunt of it. But I also feel that the law can be used against the Muslim men who are on the receiving end of it. For instance, is someone has to take out their vengeance on a Muslim man, they (Hindu) can exploit this law and would thus get their way out.“
She shared, “While the law promises to end the miseries of the women who have faced forceful conversions and punish the men involved, the angle of Hindu men/women exploiting it for their own purposes and the punishment that should be meted out to them is not thought through.“ The tension between Hindu and Muslim community in country is since the partition of India 1947. So, the possibility of violation of law exist here completely.
“I think the motive behind this law should be achieved and the forceful conversions should come to an end and that is why the law has been brought so hastily. But one cannot ignore the fact that the law is brought in a state which is under the leadership of a Hindu monk, who has been very vocal about his beliefs (Hindu). If the state exploits the law and puts their agendas ahead of the common people, then not only will that mean death of a democracy, but also of the judiciary“, according to Swati.
The law created controversies and faced backlash. People are predicting the law can be exploited because of the old conflict both the communities have. No doubt, it will make difficult for people who thinks beyond religion.
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