The police in Uttar Pradesh stopped a Muslim man from marrying a Hindu woman in Lucknow despite the consent of their parents, saying they would first have to take permission from the state authorities under the new anti-conversion law that targets “love jihad”, The Indian Express reported on Friday.

The police action was based on complaints they received from members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing youth outfit founded by Chief Minister Adityanath.

The wedding was supposed to take place on Wednesday in Lucknow’s Duda Colony. But minutes before the ceremony started, a team from the Para Police Station reached the venue and told the couple that they could only marry with the permission of the Lucknow district magistrate.

“On December 2, we received information that a girl from one community was wanting to get married to a boy from another other community,” Suresh Chandra Rawat, a senior Lucknow Police officer, told NDTV. “We called both sides to the police station and handed them a copy of the new unlawful conversion ordinance and both sides have given written consent that as per law, they will inform the DM [district magistrate] and get his permission before moving ahead with things.”

Para Station House Officer Triloki Singh told The Indian Express that the wedding was to be held as per Hindu rituals. He said that the couple were getting married with each other’s consent and there “was no coercion of any type”.

But, “some representatives of Hindu Yuva Vahini objected to the wedding and we stopped the wedding and told them that under the new conversion law, you can only get married if you have notified the district magistrate for the specified period of time”, the officer added. “We told them that it should not seem that there is pressure to convert.”

Asked if either the bride or groom intended to change their religion, the SHO said: “The Muslim youth wanted to become Hindu and get married. They were getting married according to Hindu rituals.”

‘Love Jihad’ row

“Love jihad” is 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. The term was not recognised in India’s legal system until November, when the Uttar Pradesh government introduced 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. For converting minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, the punishment goes up to 10 years in jail.

Notably, the law was passed despite the fact that Adityanath’s own administration – the Uttar Pradesh Special Investigation Team – had failed to gather any proof that such a conspiracy of forcible conversion exists.

The ordinance was promulgated by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28. Hours later, the police registered their first case against a Muslim man in the state’s Bareilly district. Owais Ahmad was arrested on Wednesday and sent to 14 days judicial custody.

Apart from Uttar Pradesh, four other BJP-ruled states have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage. On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan warned that anyone who plots “love jihad” in the state will be “destroyed.”

Other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Karnataka and Haryana have made similar claims. Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said earlier this month that his government would take measures to end religious conversions in the name of “love jihad”. Meanwhile, the Haryana government on November 26 formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law for the same.

In February, the Centre told the Lok Sabha that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”. Investigations by the National Investigation Agency and the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department have turned up no evidence for this alleged conspiracy either. The National Commission for Women maintains no data about “love jihad” too.