The cabinet in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday approved the MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020. The adopted bill to stop Hindu women from converting to Islam after tying the knot with Muslim men has been controversial and has been called the “Love Jihad” law. Muslim rights groups and civil society expressed reservations on the grounds that the bill cements the popular racist stereotyping of Muslim men into law. Madhya Pradesh is the second state that passed the law almost a month after Uttar Pradesh.
The bill will be presented in the state assembly next week for approval. The extremists in Hindu majority country have coined a term, Love Jihad, alleging that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage in the name of love to force them to convert to Islam.
State Home Minister Narottam Mishra said at a press conference that the bill prescribed a maximum up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to 100,000 Indian rupees ($1358).
The burden of proof was on the accused and those associated with him, including organizations and institutions, he added.
An official statement said: “Those looking to change their religion will have to notify two months ahead, failing which the marriage will be considered null and void under the new law.”
After the adoption of such law last month, dozens of people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh in the name of Love-Jihad. The law has been misused to target Muslim boys.
In the latest incident in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, a Muslim teenager was arrested when he was walking with a Hindu girl in the Bijnor district.
The boy and the girl, who were stated to be classmates, were on their way back after attending a friend’s birthday party. A group of men intercepted them and beat up the boy after found him to be a Muslim. Later, they took them to a police station where a case registered against him under the anti-conversion law and on charges of abduction. He was also charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
Police claimed that the case was registered on a complaint filed by the father of the girl. However, the girl denied filing any report against the boy.
Muslim minority in the Hindu majority country has been finding it difficult to survive after the extremist Bhartiya Janta Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power in 2014. The government changed the status of Muslim majority northern state of Kashmir last year by adopting a constitutional amendment bifurcating it into two Union Territories, governed by the Center.