More than 100 former civil servants on Tuesday wrote an open letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, urging him to withdraw his government’s “illegal and atrocious” anti-conversion law that intends to curb “love jihad”, The National Herald reported.

They said the ordinance was being used “as a stick to victimise” especially Muslim men, and women “who dare to exercise their freedom of choice”.

“Love jihad” is a term Hindu right-wing groups use to refer to an alleged conspiracy that Muslims are luring Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam. The term was recently given credence in Indian law after Uttar Pradesh brought in the ordinance, which purportedly attempts to punish forced religious conversions. In a month since the law was passed, the state government has made a spate of arrests, targeting Muslim men.

The former bureaucrats said that Uttar Pradesh had become the “epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry” as Hindutva vigilante groups “were acting as a power unto themselves in intimidating innocent Indian citizens”. The institutions of governance, on the other hand, were “now steeped in communal poison”, they said.

The signatories of the letter include, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and former Adviser to the Prime Minister TKA Nair.

The letter mentioned the harrowing incident in Moradabad district where a 22-year-old Hindu woman miscarried after she was forced to stay at a women’s protection home. The woman’s Muslim husband was arrested along with his brother after they were accosted by members of the right-wing group Bajrang Dal, dragged to the police and arrested on allegations that the man had forced the woman to marry him.

“What is inexcusable is the police remained mute as vigilantes harassed and interrogated the innocent couple,” the letter from the former civil servants said, noting that the woman suffered a miscarriage “possibly as a result of harassment”. “Does this not amount to effective murder of an unborn child and is the police force of your State, by their inaction, not complicit in this?”

The letter said that with laws like these, the Uttar Pradesh government had turned itself into an authoritarian regime. “You can pose no greater threat to the nation than by turning its own citizens against one another, a conflict that can only serve the country’s enemies,” it added. “We, therefore, demand that the illegal ordinance be withdrawn forthwith and those Indians that have suffered from its unconstitutional enforcement be suitably compensated.”

Also read:

  1. ‘Love jihad’: Laws targeting interfaith marriages creating atmosphere of hatred, says JD(U) leader
  2. UP’s ‘love jihad’ law follows ideology of khap panchayat, must be struck down, says Justice AP Shah
  3. ‘Love jihad’: 14 members of Muslim man’s family arrested under anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh