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Love Jihad: Rhetoric, Reality And Rights

The Uttar Pradesh Chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced a new law to counter love jihad, an alleged conspiracy where Muslim men entice docile Hindu girls, with an ulterior motive of religious conversion. The states of Haryana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh were next in line announcing similar legislations to counter Love jihad. with the NCW and the Union government saying that there exists no recorded data of Love jihad cases, the pertinent question to ask is why at a time when the country is witnessing an unprecedented crisis, multiple BJP ruled state governments are losing their cool cumulatively on an imaginary menace.

The motive of Muslim youth might not be certain, but what is certain is the Bias of radical right-wing groups. What drives these forces is an Ulterior motive of driving Muslims out of the social ecosystem. Love jihad has been used as a tool in the hands of radical right-wing outfits to create fear and delegitimise inter-faith marriages. These fears are further exacerbated by narratives of population explosion by Muslims, shrinking population of Hindus, capture of institutions by Muslims.

This devious method has been well used to cement the already fraught Hindu-Muslim relationship and for electoral gains, but the bigger worry in the rhetoric of Love jihad is that it not only endangers the right of autonomy of women but also encapsulates them in patriarchal prisms. Whilst depriving women of their right to make a decision- good or bad, they are perceived by the state as daughters and sisters rather than adult independent consenting individuals with the ability to make decisions for themselves, this is the very same idea that keeps patriarchal societies alive and kicking’. This further goes to intervene with an individual's right to privacy which is a constitutionally guaranteed right.

Background
term ’love jihad’ first gained momentum in the year 2009 in Kerala and Karnataka, when a group called hindujagrati.org claimed that Hindu girls are being deceived into marriage with Muslims for the purpose of religious conversion. The same group made claims of at least 30,000 conversions in Karnataka alone, on further investigation it was found out that these claims were false and with no substance. The Kerala high court while passing a judgement said that in a syncretic and multi-ethnic society, inter-religion marriages are common and closed the investigation. Though this did not stop fringe groups from harassing and moral-schooling inter-faith couples.

the topic again sparked controversy in 2010, 2011 and 2013, but after the advent of BJP at the centre in 2014, its relevance dramatically rose with several prominent politicians highlighting it. In 2016, the National investigation agency (NIA), an agency meant to investigate serious crimes and terrorist activities was employed to investigate a case relating to alleged love jihad of a girl named Hadiya (Akhila Ashokan), NIA later concluded that there was no evidence of love jihad. but by then media involvement in the case had already made ‘love jihad’ a household term.

The increased attention does not come as a surprise as the ruling regime have time and again made their stand very clear. Anecdotal instances of forceful conversions

have been presented as the wider reality. Action on alleged matters love jihad was promised several times by BJP leaders before elections.

Love or love Jihad
The High court of Karnataka in 2009 ordered state government’s CID to investigate matters relating to Love Jihad, the probe of 100s of interreligious marriages concluded that there was no organised attempt by any group to entice women belonging to Hindu or Christian religions to marry Muslim men with an aim of converting them to Islam.

In another study conducted in the year 2013, it was concluded that in a conservative society like ours very few marry out of their castes, and even fewer marry out of their religion. Statistics in the study show that only 2.21 percent married in a different religion. In Kerala alone, the number of inter-religion marriages is somewhere between 500-1000. Which is 0.36 percent of the total marriages, this statistic debunks the premise of population explosion by Muslims. The anecdotes of love are many, jihad exists in fear.

The Law, Legality and locus standi
Madhya Pradesh's home minister announced that the new law which would be tabled in the next session of assembly would carry 5 years of rigorous imprisonment; the apparent crime would also be cognizable and non-bailable in nature. The law would be brought to prevent religious conversions, but Madhya Pradesh along with nine other states already has a law restricting religious conversions by the title ‘Madhya Pradesh Freedom of religion act’1968’, so to have a new law performing the same tasks might not do any good on ground, but it might be a good way of stirring up the rhetoric of islamophobia.

As stated by the minister himself, an inter-faith couple before getting married would have to obtain a certificate from the office of the district collector, this is a classic case of over-reach by the state in the private affairs of citizens. This violates the basic human right of choice, faith and liberty. This ‘big-brotherly’ approach of the state undermines the mere minimal right of thought and choice,

In 2018, The SC in the Hadiya case pronounced that marrying a person of one’s choice is inherent under article 21 of our constitution, and that the constitution ensures personal liberty and what religion to follow or whether to follow a religion or not is an inalienable part of personal liberty. Justice Chandrachud remarked ‘absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith’. With precedents and constitutional guarantees like these, such laws censoring love are bound to collapse.

Such laws when passed, would also be violative of set international precedents and laws, many of which India is a signatory. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights Commission, 1989) that calls for ‘free and full choice’ in decisions on when and whom to marry, and these practices also show that we do not honour this commitment.

Such laws that put inter-faith marriages under scrutiny of state, if passed would be ultra-vires of the jurisdiction of the constitution. Legally they have no locus-standi but what must be alarming to us as citizens is the how that state can use legislations to further its agenda. Such laws are inherently degrading towards women as they assume women to be gullible and incapable of making apt decisions for themselves and as property of men to get authorisation on a personal matter like marriage.

Conclusion
As correctly noted by Kerala High court, that in a Multi-ethnic, religious and diverse society like ours, marriages outside established patriarchal norms are common and should be treated as common. The freedom to choose a partner flows with individuality of a person and is a sacrosanct human and constitutional right.

The states intervention in private lives of women make them the subjects of men and renders them unequal and incompetent to make decisions. This malicious attempt is a blow to individuality, rights and the social fabric of India. This is an idea whose time should never come.

Written By: Digvijay Singh. (student- 1st year at Gujarat National Law University)

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