The police in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday made its first arrest under the new anti-conversion law that targets “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory used by right-wing groups who accuse Muslim men of using marriage as a lure to force Hindu women to convert to Islam, PTI reported.
The accused, identified as Owais Ahmad, was produced before Magistrate Priyanka Anjor in Baheri town on Wednesday evening.
“This is the first arrest under the new law,” Bareilly Deputy Inspector General of Police Rajesh Kumar Pandey said. “Accused Owais Ahmad was arrested from the Richha railway gate in the Bahedi area on Wednesday. He was produced before a local court and was sent to 14 days judicial custody.”
The police arrested Ahmad based on a complaint filed by one Tikaram on November 28, hours after Governor Anandiben Patel gave her assent to the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. The legislation makes religious conversion a non-bailable offence, inviting penalties of up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Tikaram has accused Ahmad of “coercing, coaxing and alluring” her daughter into converting to Islam. “Despite repeated disapprovals by me and my family, he [the Muslim man] is not listening, and is applying pressure on me and my family through abuses and death threats to fulfil his desire,” he had said. The case was filed at the Deorania police station in Bareilly.
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In his complaint, Tikaram said his daughter and Ahmed had studied together in Class 12. The latter had allegedly attempted to pressurise Tikaram’s daughter to convert and marry him. His daughter got married in June this year, but Ahmed continued to harass her and her family members, Tikaram alleged.
An unidentified police officer told The Print that the two had planned to elope in October last year, but were stopped at Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh by the state police. Ahmad, however, denied the allegations against him and said he has no connection with the woman.“I have no link with the woman, she got married a year back,” he told the news website. “I am innocent.”
Superintendent of Police Sansar Singh told News18 that Ahmed has been arrested under Sections 504 (offending a person), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, along with Sections 3 and 5 of the new law.
Section 3 of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance states that no person shall convert or attempt to convert any other person from one religion to another by “use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion”, according to Bar and Bench. Section 5, on the other hand, prescribes punishment for contravention of Section 3.
A person found guilty of an offence under Section 3 will be punishable with imprisonment from 1 to 5 years and a fine of up to Rs 15, 000. However, for conversions of minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, there will be jail term of 2 to 10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty.
Notably, Section 12 of the law places the burden of proof on the accused. It states that the burden of proof as to “whether a religious conversion was effected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, lies on the person who has caused the conversion and, where such conversion has been facilitated by any person, on such other person”.