Eight people arrested for allegedly being involved in illegal conversions in Uttar Pradesh have been charged with “waging war against India”, reported The Indian Express on Saturday.

A court of the Anti Terrorist Squad in Lucknow invoked the charges under sections 121-A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by section 121) and 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war).

The Anti Terrorist Squad, which is part of the Uttar Pradesh police, had first moved a magistrate court with a plea to invoke the charges. After the court rejected the petition, the police filed an application in the special court.

On June 21, the special police force had arrested two clerics from Delhi for allegedly converting more than 1,000 people to Islam.

The police had said that the two accused Mufti Kazi Jahageer Alam and Mohammad Umar Gautam ran an organisation named Islamic Dawah Centre with their associates. The organisation, the police alleged, had been involved in large-scale religious conversions for the past 18 months since the arrest.

A day after the arrest, the Uttar Pradesh government had directed the police to trace the others involved in religious conversions and invoke provisions of the National Security Act against them.

After this, the Anti Terrorist Squad arrested eight more people, who they claimed had carried out religious conversions under the banner of Islamic Dawah Centre.

The police claimed that the accused were luring women, children, the unemployed and the poor for conversion by offering education, marriage, jobs and money.

The eight who have been charged with waging war are Mohammad Umar Gautam, Mufti Kazi Jahageer Alam Qasmi, Irfan Sheikh alias Irfan Khan, Salahuddin Zainuddin Sheikh, Bhupriya Bando alias Arsalan, Dr Faraz, Prasad Rameshwar Kaware alias Adam and Kausar Alam.

The special police force claimed they have collected enough evidence to invoke the sections against the eight accused.

The eight accused were earlier charged under sections 417 (punishment for cheating), 120b (criminal conspiracy), 153 (intent to cause riot), 295a (actions intended to outrage religious feelings), 298 (comments intended to hurt religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code and the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Act, 2021, according to News18.

The anti-conversion law, enacted in February, is aimed at penalising “love jihad” – a pejorative term coined by the right-wing groups to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men charm Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam.

Under the law, a person who wants to convert and the individual who is performing the conversion have to seek permission from a district magistrate.

The law specifically targets inter-faith marriages and states that it can declare a marriage illegal if it were done for the sole purpose of conversion, or if a person converts to marry.

It also makes religious conversion punishable if it has been done by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement.

Critics and legal experts have called the law a violation of fundamental rights.

“The law has been deliberately kept broad and its provisions attempt to crush those accused of a crime,” said lawyer Talha Abdul Rahman, who represented a petitioner challenging the ordinance before it became an Act.