THE MYTH OF LOVE JIHAD IN INDIA
Author: Sulfiyamol P. S., II year of B.Com., LL.B.(Hons.) from Government Law College, Ernakulam
'Love Jihad' is a religious conspiracy theory where Muslim Men allegedly target non-muslim women for conversion to Islam by pretending love. The allegations about Love Jihad in India have been raised by multiple Right-wing Hindu organisations while Muslim organisations have denied it.
Recently a 'Love Jihad' debate was started after MP Minister Mishra said that the police had been asked to examine a scene of two protagonists, a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy kissing with a temple in the backdrop in a Netflix series. Based on this issue, there was a heated debate on Love Jihad with #boycottnetflix even trending on Twitter. An FIR was filed against Netflix executives for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through the series.
Another time the term came for debate was when jewellery brand Tanishq was forced to pull down an advertisement showing a Muslim mother in law organising a baby shower for her Hindu daughter in law.
Interfaith marriages in India are uncommon. A 2013 study found out that less than five percent of Indians marry outside their caste and only two percent of women have married outside their religions. However, the concept of 'Love Jihad' has remained a source of political and social debates for many in India.
The Union Home Ministry in the past has said the term Love Jihad was not defined under any law. However, in November 2020, The government of Madhya Pradesh announced that they will be introducing a bill in the Parliament which bans Love jihad with a punishment of 5 years rigorous imprisonment while making the charge non-bailable. Following this, the state governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are also contemplating legal provisions against love Jihad. Although the ordinance itself does not use the term Love Jihad, the UP Chief Minister has gone on record to state that this law has been brought to regulate love jihad.
Anti conversion laws exist in nine out of the twenty-nine States. But many of these laws focus on prohibiting forced conversion while the recent laws introduced since 2019 have made voluntary conversion by marriage an offence as well unless parties go through complex procedures before they convert.
The case which laid the foundation for the first love jihad case to reach supreme court was of Shafin Jahan v Asokan KM involving the alleged kidnapping and forced conversion of Hadiya (Formerly Akhila Asokan) which was investigated by the NIA. In 2018, the Supreme Court had overturned the High Court orders and restored Hadiya's marriage with Shafin Jahan stating that an adult woman has the freedom to make her own decision in marital choices and that the court cannot intervene in a consensual marriage.
The Allahabad High Court has made an important observation as to how a court must see people presented before it. Cancelling a case against Salamat Ansari, a Muslim man, filed by the parents of his Hindu wife, Priyanka Kharwar, who had converted to Islam last year before marrying him, the court observed that it does not see the two individuals as Hindu and Muslim, but two grown-ups living together happily out of their own choice and will.
The right to marry a person of one's choice is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution, while freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one's choice, including not following any religion are guaranteed under Article 25. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is the legislation in India which allows interfaith couples to marry.
It provides validity to marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. The Act was meant to be a legislation to govern marriages that could not be solemnised according to religious customs of individual religions – which essentially meant inter-faith marriages.
Any bill on the nature of recent ordinances will be violative of the Constitution of India. Other than being violative of Article 21 and Article 25 which allow an individual the right to marry a person of their choice and also practice the faith of their choice, it would also violate Articles 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution which guarantee equality, equality of opportunity and equal protection of the law and no discrimination on the ground of caste, creed, colour, and religion.
A term terrible and demeaning as 'Love Jihad' has found importance in our public discourse and influenced legislation speaks a lot about how low we have sunk as a society.