Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Saturday criticised Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for espousing the need for a law against “love jihad”, and asked whether inter-faith marriages of family members of the party’s politicians would also be considered forced conversions, ANI reported.

Five Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states – Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam – have promised to introduced strict legal provisions to prevent “love jihad”, a conspiracy theory used by Hindutva supporters, who accuse Muslim men of duping Hindu women into marriages, with the aim of converting them to Islam. Right-wing leaders allege it to be a part of a larger Muslim conspiracy of eventually turning Hindus into a minority in India.

“Family members of several BJP leaders have also performed inter-religion marriages,” Baghel noted on Saturday. “I ask BJP leaders if these marriages come under the definition of ‘love jihad’?”

On November 20, senior Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also criticised the BJP and said that “love jihad” was nothing but a phrase manufactured by the party to divide the nation and disturb India’s communal harmony.

Gehlot said the idea to have such a law went against an individual’s right to personal liberty. The Constitution of India guarantees the right to choose a partner from any faith and caste, and protects personal liberties under Article 21.

“Marriage is a matter of personal liberty,” the Congress leader had observed. Therefore, any law around the concept is “completely unconstitutional” and would not stand in any court of the law, he said. “Jihad has no place in love.”

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Although the Union home ministry in February told Parliament that “love jihad” was not defined under the current laws of the country. The matter has often made headlines, with Bharatiya Janata Party leaders leading the cause for a law against forced conversions.

It started with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath who proposed a legislation last month threatening those engaging in “love jihad” with death. 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 after concealing their identity. Soon, other BJP-ruled states 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.