Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel defended the anti-conversion law introduced in the state, saying a survey showed the need for it, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. In an interview to the newspaper, Patel said that a bill is introduced only after the government is convinced about its need.

“Whenever a Bill comes, it does not come just like that,” she said. “There is a survey conducted that shows how many girls married, how many faced problems, how many girls came back, how many girls lodged complaints. Even parents come forward seeking arrests, alleging that the boy changed his name. When such incidents are increasingly reported during a survey, in such a situation, such a Bill is brought and is pursued.”

On being asked if any woman sought her intervention, the governor did not answer it directly. “Women come to me with different issues and if required, I refer issues to the government. But there are not many complaints,” she said.

The anti-conversion laws seek to penalise “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.

Uttar Pradesh had passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, in November. Since then, the police have arrested several Muslim men under the law. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of anti-conversion laws, but refused to stay the controversial legislations.

Apart from Uttar Pradesh, four other BJP-ruled states – Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Assam – have also decided to introduce laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriage.

The Centre itself told the Lok Sabha in February that no “case of ‘love jihad’ had 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.

When asked about the rising crimes against women in the state, Governor Patel said families should keep a watch on what sons and daughters are doing outside. “There are various ills in society, families and individuals,” she said. “When these ills come out, they lead to such incidents. Then we think that justice is given, proper action is taken.”

She added: “I would say that it is also the responsibility of the family to handle children. At home, caution should be taken to keep a watch on what sons and daughters are doing outside, whether any untoward incidents might happen.”

Two recent incidents of gangrape in Uttar Pradesh have made headlines. Reports emerged on Wednesday that three men in Uttar Pradesh’s Budaun district allegedly raped and murdered a 50-year-old woman. The police have filed a case against the accused, including a priest, and have made two arrests. The priest is still on the run and the police have formed four teams to find him.

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men raped and brutally assaulted the woman in Hathras. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. The woman had suffered multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut in her tongue.

Patel, however, praised the law and order situation in the state. “I interacted with women during my visits, went to villages and was satisfied with the work undertaken,” she told The Indian Express. “People told me that law-and-order situation was very bad earlier but they find it okay and better now. People told me that earlier industries did not come here, but now industries have also started coming, which means that they feel that the law-and-order situation has improved compared to the past.”