08/21/2021, 14.09
INDIA
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Gujarat High Court defends mixed couples from 'love jihad' campaign

by Nirmala Carvalho

The court stayed the amendment to the State’s anti-conversion law introduced by Hindu nationalists if there is no fraud or coercion in marriage. This issue also touches other Indian states. For Father Babu Joseph, the ruling “does a good service to the cause of social justice.”

 

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) – The Gujarat High Court stayed sections of the controversial state’s anti-conversion law in order to protect mixed marriages that did not take place by force, fraud or false promises.

In its interim order issued on Thursday, the Court ruled that the amendments approved a few weeks ago to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act with the intention of countering the so-called "love jihad" cannot be applied if there is no proof of coercion.

Accepting an appeal presented by the Muslim Scholars Council (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind), judges Vikram Nath and Biren Vaishnav noted that certain sections of the anti-conversion law “shall not operate merely because the marriage is solemnised by a person of one religion with another religion without force, allurement or fraudulent means.”

The petitioners argued that the law violated Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which guarantees the right to profess, practice and propagate one's religion. They challenged the amendment’s vague wording about “forced conversion”, based on “allurement of divine blessing”.

The issue of mixed marriages is increasingly a hot topic among India’s Hindu nationalists. A marriage between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man was cancelled in July, in Nashik, Maharashtra, after invitations to guests sparked a wave of protests on social media.

“The GCIC welcomes this order by the Gujarat High Court,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews.

“Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, also governed by the BJP (the Hindu nationalist party) have also introduced ordinances that criminalise interfaith marriages under the bogey of 'love jihad'.”

“The new law has already been used to threaten Muslim men and mixed couples. In December 2020 in Uttar Pradesh, police stopped a marriage despite the couple having the consent of both families. They said that the couple need the district magistrate's permission to go ahead.”

“The ruling by the Gujarat High Court does a good service to the cause of social justice,” Verbite Father Babu Joseph told AsiaNews.

“In a country like India, pitting against each other people of different religions who have lived in harmony for millennia is nothing more than social anarchy,” added Fr Joseph, a former spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India,

“What this country needs is cohesion and the government must foster it. Choosing one's partner is a fundamental human right and the authorities must not intervene in any way, except when there is an actual violation of existing laws.”

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