The Madhya Pradesh government on Tuesday approved a Bill aimed to prevent forceful religious conversions for inter-faith marriages, as an ordinance, ANI reported. The ordinance, which was passed in a special session of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Cabinet, was sent to the governor for assent, according to The Indian Express.
The state government decided to take the ordinance route after a three-day session of the Assembly was cancelled as about 60 people – including officials, employees and five MLAs – tested positive for coronavirus.
The MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, which was approved by the Cabinet on Saturday, provides for one to five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000, for forcing religious conversion. Forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of two to 10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000.
Last month, the Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh also passed a similar law aimed at tackling “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory espoused by right-wing Hindutva activists, alleging that Hindu women are forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage.
Bharatiya Janata Party governments in some other states have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage. The Haryana government has formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law on the matter. Karnataka and Assam governments have made similar announcements. These actions are despite the fact that in February, the Centre told the Lok Sabha that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”.