The police in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district have filed a chargesheet under the state’s anti-conversion law against a 22-year-old carpenter for allegedly kidnapping a Dalit woman in December, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.

Investigating Officer Kuldeep Kumar Gupta told the newspaper that the accused, identified as Afzal, was charged under provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. Besides this, the police have invoked rape charge against him based on the woman’s statement to the district magistrate.

“The woman also stated that the accused tried to convert her religion,” Gupta said. “Besides rape and Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, we have filed the chargesheet under Indian Penal Code Section 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc) and SC/ST [Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes] Act.”

The chargesheet is believed to be the first under the new stringent ordinance, according to some reports. But Bijnor Superintendent of Police Dharamvir Singh said: “We cannot claim it to be the first chargesheet filed under the new law.” He added that the chargesheet was forwarded to a court on December 19, according to PTI.

The police said that the woman had come to Bijnor from Chandigarh last month to attend a relative’s wedding. However, on December 6, she went missing and a case was filed by her father on December 9.

In her statement to the magistrate, the woman claimed that the man hid his real name and introduced himself as Sonu to befriend her. “The victim claimed the accused sexually assaulted her and she came to know about his real identity when she went with him,” the investigating officer added. “He told her his real name and said would marry her after conversion.”

She also alleged that Afzal put pressure on her to convert her religion for marriage, the police said. The accused was arrested on December 10 and a local court sent him to judicial custody.

According to The Indian Express, 14 cases have been filed under the anti-conversion law since it was introduced in the state.

‘Love jihad’

The ordinance against unlawful conversions was promulgated by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28, days after it was passed by the Adityanath-led state Cabinet. The law is intended to target “love jihad” – a pejorative term coined by the right-wing groups to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men charm Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam. Ever since the law came into force, the Adityanath government has launched a crackdown on interfaith marriages in the state, arresting a spate of Muslim men.

The Madhya Pradesh government on December 29 approved a bill aimed to prevent forceful religious conversions for inter-faith marriages, as an ordinance.

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”.