Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday said that “love jihad” was a phrase manufactured by the Bharatiya Janata Party to divide the nation and disturb India’s communal harmony. He said the idea to have a law over it goes against an individual’s right to personal liberty.
“Marriage is a matter of personal liberty,” the Congress leader wrote on Twitter. Therefore, any law around the concept is “completely unconstitutional” and would not stand in any court of the law, Gehlot added. “Jihad has no place in love.”
“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage. Right-wing leaders allege it to be a part of a larger Muslim conspiracy of eventually turning Hindus into a minority in India.
Gehlot accused the BJP of creating an environment in the nation “where consenting adults would be at the mercy of state power”. “Marriage is a personal decision and they are putting curbs on it,” he wrote. “This is like snatching away personal liberty.”
Gehlot said to introduce laws around the imaginary theory seemed like a ploy of the government to “disrupt communal harmony, fuel social conflict and disregard Constitutional provisions like the state not discriminating against citizens on any ground”.
Although the Union Home Ministry in February told parliament that “love jihad” is not defined under the current laws of the country, the matter has often made headlines, with several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders espousing the need for a law against forced conversions.
It started with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, who proposed a legislation threatening that those engaging in “love jihad” must be prepared to die. The BJP leader warned men who “hide their identities” and “play with the honour of sisters” to get ready for their own funerals, even though there is no law that sentences an individual to death for marrying a woman on the basis of a concealed identity. Soon, other BJP-ruled states – Karnataka, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh – too announced that they are considering similar laws.
On November 18, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said a committee would be set up to draft a strict law against “love jihad”. Vij’s announcement came on the same day Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state would introduce a “love jihad law” in the Assembly, which includes five years of rigorous imprisonment for violators.
In October, jewellery brand Tanishq revoked an advertisement featuring a baby shower for an inter-faith couple, following backlash from Hindutva supporters on social media for allegedly promoting “love jihad”. The company said it had made the decision “keeping in mind... the well-being of our employees, partners and store staff”. The withdrawal of the ad drew sharp criticism from many who said the company was succumbing to right-wing extremism.