We all are aware of the famous “Love Jihad” propaganda under which, as people believe, a Muslim man lure Hindu woman for conversion in the name of marriage. Many such cases have witnessed crude results in the country where society does not harbour interfaith marriages. But what happens when the situation is opposite? If a Muslim girl decides to marry a Hindu man, would that be also counted as Love Jihad?

Such cases too are met with the same fate, most of the time its men who suffer fatally in the relationship. Honour killing is one such example of the consequences of interfaith marriage in India. While arranged marriages are accepted in the norms, love, and marriages outside religious and caste groups have long attracted censor in the country.

New anti-conversion laws of India

A controversial new anti-conversion law that criminalizes interfaith love has now put Hindu-Muslim couples on edge. The Uttar Pradesh government’s prohibition of unlawful conversion of the religious ordinance, 2020 promulgated in November last year that require a 60 days’ notice along with Magistrate to conduct a police inquiry to ascertain the real intention behind the conversion. Though the ordinance provides measures to safeguard people from fraud, coercion, and other misrepresentation, it also restricts people who voluntarily seek interfaith marriages. The sole motive behind the act is to avoid Love Jihad in the country, but many times innocent couples are also derogated similarly.

As per BJP the new law emphasizes protecting ‘The Honour of Hindu Women’. The law makes conversion non-bailable with up to ten years of imprisonment or a fine of RS. 50,000. The law also emphasizes strict actions over mass conversion. Today around nine states have anti-conversion laws including Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand.

interfaith marriages

Even though this proposition treats all religions equally and is in accordance with the right to freedom of religion, critics found fault with the implementation of the law. Many people said that the law directly targets the Muslim community and restricts their freedom of love. In reality, it is both- the fate of interfaith couple who first only feared objection of the family but now are also vulnerable to the Indian state.

Mostly, it is the family of the couple that utter first-hand violence, but now the risks come from both sides. Even if the couple manages to flee the objection of the family (which happens so very rarely) they are questioned by society.  Lawyers deny taking up their cases owing to the danger involved, no officials help and receive a threat from the vigilante groups of both the religion.

The huge number of honours killing in the country reveals that tolerance for interfaith marriages is a one-way road for a large population of the country. Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women is celebrated, while the Hindus might see it as utterly dishonourable and vice versa. Either way, the couples end up in unavoidable circumstances. One of the most revealing factors of the scenario is that in every case it is majorly a woman igniting violence. In many cases, it is women who order killing and manhunt. Even in the most brutal and famous honour killing case of Ankit Saxena in New Delhi, it was the girl’s mother who ignited the fight between the families.

As laws are increasingly making parameters of choosing one’s marital partner, there is no space left for love to blossom. Interfaith couples in today’s India have much more to fear than just family’s objection. Due to anti-Muslim propaganda among the Hindu community and anti- Hindu propaganda with the Muslim community, today even ordinary people feel okay to interfere in consensual interfaith marriages which by every means is wrong.

Obviously, there are cases when people lure men or women of a different religion with the sole agenda of conversion, there are also cases where people marry out of true love. To differentiate these cases, the law should be enacted in a way that protects the lives and rights of innocent couples and does not drag them to the edge. These couples have zero agency over their own will and bodies and the patriarchy pushes them where they rarely have any say over their choices.

Though India’s constitution includes the right to Religious Freedom, these special laws are threatening the rights of especially women who choose love over differences.

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