India

79 cases under UP’s anti-conversion law so far; Muslim men including scholars still behind bars

79 cases registered against unlawful conversion under the 2020 stringent law in Uttar Pradesh till July this year and charge sheets have been filed in 50 cases, according to a document submitted by the State government in the Allahabad High Court.

Of the 79 FIRs, investigation was pending in 22 cases, The Hindu reported, citing the saffron party-led government’s counter-affidavit in response to a bunch of PILs challenging the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act 2021 (earlier ordinance 2020).

Final report was filed in seven cases.

The law was passed by the Yogi Adityanath-led State cabinet last November and sources say that more than 100 Muslims including scholars and religious leaders were arbitrarily arrested by UP police under the new draconian law till now.

Out of the 79 FIRs lodged till July 7, most were registered in Bareilly region 21, followed by Meerut Zone 15, Gorakhpur 12, Agra seven, and Prayagraj five, the newspaper reported.

The new draconian law mainly envisages that no person shall convert, either directly or indirectly from one religion to another by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion. The law is seen as giving legal teeth to the BJP’s anti-Muslim campaign against the so-called ‘love jihad‘.

Though the term ‘love jihad’ has not been used in the legislation, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and other BJP leaders and saffron groups had extensively used the term ‘love jihad’ to target Muslims, falsely accusing Muslim men of engaging in a mass conspiracy to turn Hindu women away from their religion by loving them.

The cases in which the final report was submitted include the Moradabad case last December when Rashid, a Muslim man who is the husband of a Hindu woman Pinki was arrested under the law. The woman, who was temporarily kept in a government shelter, had reportedly suffered a miscarriage leading to outrage over the case, according to The Hindu.

Rashid and his brother were arrested when they had reached the marriage registration office in Kanth on the complaint of Pinki’s mother who told the cops that Rashid had induced her into marriage and converted her under the garb of providing her a job. Later, in her statement before the court, Pinki had said they married through consent as both were adults.

Muslim scholars in jail

More than a dozen Muslim scholars and preachers have been arrested in a case registered under the draconian anti-conversion law so far in Uttar Pradesh. In June, the Anti-Terrorist Squad had arrested two Muslim scholars Mohammad Umar Gautam and Mufti Quazi Jahangeer Quasmi under draconian anti-conversion law while another influential Muslim scholar Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui in September.

Many including Opposition parties, rights activists, Muslim leaders, and international rights watchdogs have been raising concerns about the new Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020. Most of it has been around the law being a violation of an individual’s all fundamental rights. The law makes the private choice of a person who converts to another religion subject to the whims of the government of the day.

Lawmakers, community leaders, and activists had said that the arrest of 64-year-old Siddiqui violated the veteran Muslim leader’s constitutional rights at every stage. Several people had expressed shock over the arrest and said the UP Police action is clearly in violation of Articles 25-28 of the Indian Constitution.

Maktoob Staff

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