Rajnath Singh backs ‘love jihad’ law
Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday asked “why should there be conversion”, as he backed the controversial anti-conversion law enacted by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh to crack down on interfaith unions that the BJP besmirches as “love jihad”.
That Rajnath, known to be a relatively moderate face in the current regime, has backed the anti-conversion law, being embraced by several other BJP-ruled states as well although it is widely considered regressive and discriminatory, shows that it has wide acceptability in the central leadership.
Appearing unmindful of reports of couples being harassed and even jailed under the new law in Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow MP Rajnath told news agency ANI when asked if the “love jihad” law was being misused: “Hamara toh yeh kehna hai ki, conversion hona hi kyon chahiye (I want to ask why should there be conversion)?”
Told that the Constitution allows religious conversions, Rajnath intervened. “Nahi, nahi (No, no). I see reports of mass conversions taking place in the country. This should stop,” the minister said.
Rajnath claimed that Muslims are not permitted by their religion to marry someone from another faith.
“So, conversion for marriage, I personally don’t approve of it,” he said.
Asked if an individual does not have the right to marry outside his or her religion if he or she is willing to, Rajnath interjected once again before the question could be completed.
“You may have seen that in many cases, forcibly, and even allurement is offered for conversion. There is a huge difference between natural marriage and forcible conversion for marriage,” he said, defending the state governments enacting the anti-conversion law.
“I think the governments that have made these laws have considered all these things,” Rajnath said.
The defence of the law came against the backdrop of 104 retired civil servants writing to chief minister Adityanath on Tuesday, demanded the withdrawal of the anti-conversion ordinance, saying it was being used to “victimise Indian men who are Muslim and women who dare to exercise their freedom of choice”.
The signatories to the letter included former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and ex-national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, among others.
The letter said Uttar Pradesh had become the “epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry” and the institutions of governance were “steeped in communal poison”.
The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday approved an ordinance against what it said were “forcible religious conversions”. Some other BJP-ruled states too have started the process of enacting a law similar to what Adityanath has done in Uttar Pradesh.