Under the new law, a man and woman from different religions will have to give two-month notice before they get married to get permission. Critics of the Modi government say the law primarily targets Muslim men

Participants hold placards denouncing a recently approved legislation in the country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, during a protest in Bengaluru, India, on December 1, 2020.
Participants hold placards denouncing a recently approved legislation in the country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, during a protest in Bengaluru, India, on December 1, 2020. (AP)

Police in northern India have arrested 10 men for allegedly compelling women to change their religion after getting married, using a new anti-conversion law popularly called the "Love Jihad" law, officials said.

Last month, Uttar Pradesh state became the first Indian province to pass a law against forced or fraudulent religious conversions, laying out prison terms for anyone compelling others to convert their faith or luring them into these conversions through marriage.

The anti-conversion law does not name any religion but critics call it anti-Islam for being solely imposed with the objective of preventing "Love Jihad," which hardline Hindu groups describe as a conspiracy to convert gullible Hindu women to Islam by misleading them with promises of love and marriage.

Officials in Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, said the law will help prevent fraudulent religious conversions and was designed to protect young women.

The federal government and the Uttar Pradesh government are both controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

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Arrest of newly wed couple

Four senior police officials said 10 men were arrested last week from different parts of Uttar Pradesh based on separate criminal complaints lodged by parents who alleged their daughters were abducted by Muslim men.

"We are using the new law to only arrest those men where we have proof to show it is a clear case of forced religious conversion," said one police official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the press.

A woman whose marriage registration process was blocked by members of Bajrang Dal told reporters that her marriage to the man was consensual. “I am an adult, I am 22 years old. I got married of my own free will on the 24th of July. This is the fifth month that we have been married,” the woman, who is from Bijnore, said and added that she had been friends with the man for two years.

In a video of the incident, which has been circulated on social media, men from the right-wing outfit can be seen surrounding the 22-year-old woman inside the premises of the Kanth police station.

The police have claimed that the First Information Report was lodged on the basis of a complaint filed by the woman’s mother. In her complaint, the mother alleged that the man tricked her daughter into marriage and converted her on the pretext of getting her a job.

Regarding the woman’s claims that her marriage was consensual, the Kanth station house officer Ajay Gautam said, “all things will come out during the probe” and added, “She will get an opportunity to say what she wants in court.”

“We have arrested both men and will investigate the case thoroughly,” Vidya Sagar, a senior police official said.

The arrested men have been booked under Section 3 of the recently promulgated Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. As per the ordinance, the two men could face between 1-5 years in prison if the charges against them hold in a court.

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Expanding law's scope

In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter “love jihad” – a term coined by Sangh parivar outfits to describe an imaginary Muslim conspiracy to convert unsuspecting Hindu women to Islam.

The BJP-led government in Madhya Pradesh has also said that it is proposing a jail term of 10 years for anyone found guilty of using marriage to force someone to change religion.

At least four other Indian states, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Assam have said that they are planning to bring in similar anti-conversion laws.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies