Gujarat, 'love jihad' in anti-conversion law
by Nirmala Carvalho

Six arrests were made immediately after the change passed by the state parliament. Under the new version of the law, any conversion by marriage will be considered forced and relatives will also be prosecuted. Fears of minorities: "One more weapon in the hands of Hindu fundamentalists to threaten us".

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) - On June 15, a new version of the local anti-conversion law came into force in the Indian state of Gujarat: it mainly targets "love jihad". And just four days later, in the city of Vadovara, the police filed a complaint arresting six people, including five members of the same family.

A 24-year-old woman raised this case, which shows how divisive the issue is in the Indian states where the Hindu nationalists of the BJP rule. She claimed she was deceived on social networks by a man, a 26-year-old Muslim rams trader.

According to her testimony, the man pretended to be a Christian and lured her into a relationship by promising her "a modern life after marriage." On their first meeting, he allegedly raped her and then blackmailed her with compromising images, forcing her to marry him and convert to Islam.

The Vadovara police arrested the faithful Muslim along with his parents, his sister, an uncle and another person, all accused of aiding and abetting.

Calling for the tightening of the anti-conversion law in February, local vice premier Nitin Patel had argued that the law against "love jihad" was essential to "safeguard Hindu girls and women".

In reality the new version of the anti-conversion law is greatly detrimental to relations with all minorities. The previous rule already provided for up to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 rupees for anyone accused of having converted someone by force.

Faced with this type of accusation, now even bail is no longer allowed. The law now also states that anyone who aids a conversion in the name of a love match is punishable and that any such marriage should be considered null and void.

Concern about the arrests and the new law in Gujarat was expressed to AsiaNews by Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians: “In this way a new weapon is placed in the hands of Hindu fundamentalists to intimidate minorities and attack them with impunity. The hatred between communities cultivated by these groups creates deep divisions in society and distrust of the authorities on the part of minorities. For example, tribal Christians in the Dang district are periodically threatened and attacked by right-wing fundamentalist groups. They organize great ceremonies of 'conversion' to Hinduism, despite the fact that the tribals have always been animists. But these initiatives never end up under the lens of the draconian anti-conversion law”.

Mujaheed Nafees, a lawyer of the Minority Coordination Committee, wrote to the governor of Gujarat asking for the cancellation of the new law. According to the activist, “the measure is used to threaten Muslims rather than protect women. In many cases I have seen Hindu fundamentalist organizations going through marriage records looking for mixed couples to target. The philosophy behind this law violates people's religious freedom: it is a way through which male political leaders want to impose their ideas on women, depriving them of the right to choose”.