During the current budget session, the issue of ‘Love Jihad’ was once again front and centre in both houses of the Maharashtra Assembly, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs and MLCs calling for legislation to outlaw it.
Gopichand Padalkar, a BJP Legislative Council Council Member, proposed the adoption of an anti-conversion law in the Legislative Council (Upper House of Maharashtra Assembly) after raising concerns about forced conversions in rural Maharashtra and an increase in ‘Love Jihad’ instances. He urged the administration to treat the cases seriously and prevent conversions.
पोलीसांनी याकडे दुर्लक्ष केलं. या गंभीर प्रश्नाकडे सरकारचे लक्ष वेधले pic.twitter.com/RUAq7sNsXY
— Gopichand Padalkar (@GopichandP_MLC) March 24, 2023
In response to the demand, Devendra Fadnavis, the Deputy Chief Minister, on Thursday, announced that information would be gathered from the various states that had already passed anti-conversion laws.
On #LoveJihaad and forced conversion in Maharashtra Legislative Council..
आदिवासींच्या धर्मांतरणाचे काही प्रकार लक्षात आले आहेत. मधल्या काळात फसवणुकीतून विवाह वाढले आहेत. यावर विविध राज्यातील कायद्यांची माहिती मागवून त्यावर अभ्यास करून प्रतिबंधासाठी कडक कायदे करण्यात येतील.… pic.twitter.com/9pgKm2zN1H
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) March 23, 2023
“This is very serious. So we have taken cognisance of the sentiments of the people. We are studying ‘Love Jihad’ type laws that have been passed by other states and an appropriate decision on bringing such a law in Maharashtra will be taken soon. This law will be within the constitutional framework,” he remarked.
He noted that there appears to be a strategy behind the instances that resemble such cases in the state. He informed that the state government has taken note of the 50 Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha rallies that have taken place across the state in demanding a law prohibiting ‘Love Jihad.’
He observed, “It is a fact that between 30,000 and 50,000 people have taken part in these morchas in various districts. We don’t think that there should be no interfaith marriages. They can do it, but this must not be done with the intention to cheat.”
Fadnavis made it clear that the women and child welfare department’s interfaith marriage-family coordination committee does not supersede any existing laws and that its sole purpose is to reunite families of girls like the late Shraddha Walkar, whose parents were unable to reach her.
“The interfaith marriage-family coordination committee will not supersede any existing law. It is only to establish contact between parents of girls and the girl if she is not at her home like it happened in the Shraddha Walkar case,” he stated.
He emphasised that she (Shraddha Walkar) most likely could have been saved if the police had acted quickly and her parents had been able to find her and added, “The parents were saying they only wanted to contact her one time and see if she was well or not.”
The new law against ‘love jihad,’ which was being actively considered, will fall within the bounds of the constitution, according to the deputy CM.
He also explained that a standard operating procedure (SOP) will soon be prepared for taking prompt action in cases where parents report their daughters have been duped in cases of ‘Love Jihad’ and can’t be contacted.
He further declared that the director general of police will be instructed to sensitise the police to deal with such matters.
“If the existing laws are not able to provide enough protection, then there is a need for a special law. The government is serious about this issue. If so many people are taking part in morchas, then there is a sentiment in the people and the government has taken note of it,” the BJP leader asserted.
Notably, many BJP-led governments, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Haryana, have constituted laws against ‘Love Jihad’ in their respective states to tackle the problem of forced and illegal conversions of Hindus at the hands of their Muslim partners.