Newspaper editorials have slammed four BJP-ruled states. and have pointed out how the MHA itself told Lok Sabha that there was nothing defined as “love jihad” under current laws in the country.

New Delhi: The announcement by four BJP-ruled states about the intent to bring in laws on ‘love jihad’ has invited severe criticism. Editorials published by several mainstream English newspapers denounced the move as “dangerous overreach and a paranoia about inter-personal relations that has no place in a democracy” and an attempt to “enshrine such toxic prejudice in law”. Various national dailies, in their editorials, also raised the issue of the “love jihad bogey” being a negation of women’s rights as it treats them as “gullible, defenceless participants in relationships”.

The newspaper editorials have also accused the BJP of indulging in such announcements to target a particular community and to portray women as property, stating that these are two of the party’s “favourite activities”.

‘Allahabad HC order in a case involving Hindu man, Muslim woman was used as a trigger’
The sharp response from the national media was triggered by a slew of announcements from BJP leaders in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The recent comments by the BJP leaders came after a Allahabad high court judgement on October 30 in which it said that conversion just for the sake of marriage is not valid. Incidentally, as one of the newspapers, while referring to the Allahabad high court case which was made a basis by Adityanath to announce a new law, pointed out: “Funnily enough, in that case, a Muslim woman had converted to marry a Hindu man.”

In 2014, the court had in a different case stated that conversion for the purpose of marriage alone was unacceptable. Before this, the National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma had kicked up a storm in mid-October by alleging that there was a “rise in love jihad cases”.

UP, Haryana, MP, Karnataka propose new laws
Latching on to the noise around “love jihad”, around which the party had centred its 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, state chief minister Adityanath declared on October 31 that his government “will bring an effective law” to deal with issue and promised that posters of those found involved would be put up on all crossings.

The following day, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar echoed the statement, saying his government was also contemplating a law so that the “guilty” would not escape.

A day later, it was the turn of Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to say that his government too would be making legal arrangements to ensure that “there will no jihad in the name of love”.

Finally, on November 3, Karnataka tourism minister and BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi said that the state would “enact a law banning religious conversions for the sake of marriage”.

The announcements by BJP leaders, which several legal experts have termed “unconstitutional” on the ground that they violate Articles 14 and 15 of the constitution, which guarantee equality and no discrimination on ground of caste, creed, colour, and religion, have also come under attack from leading newspapers.

Proposals display ‘obsession with excessive legislation’
An editorial in the Times of India raised questions around the very concept of “love jihad” in a piece titled “Chasing phantoms: Outlawing something that doesn’t exist would be a novelty since love jihad remains unproven”.

It recalled that “the Union home ministry told Lok Sabha earlier this year that no ‘love jihad’ cases were reported by central agencies in Kerala, where the pejorative phrase is believed to have originated in 2009. This is despite NIA probing two suspected cases.”

The editorial also cautioned that “laws against love jihad under consideration” display an “obsession with excessive legislation” but may have “no perceptible benefits”. To the contrary, it added that they may lead to “ample scope for harassment and rights violations.”

The editorial wrote that “the love jihad bogey is no less a negation of women’s agency. It treats women as gullible, defenceless participants in relationships”.

‘Targeting a community, keeping women under control are BJP’s favourite activities’
The Telegraph editorial too stated that while “the government admitted last February that this phenomenon does not exist,” this has “not deterred the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath, from announcing a law that will ban marriages pointing to love jihad, and threatening with death, indirectly, those men who allegedly lure ‘daughters and sisters’ into marriage by disguising their identities.”

It termed targeting a particular community and keeping ‘daughters and sisters’ under control, two of BJP’s “favourite activities”.

The newspaper also pointed out that “the Special Marriage Act exists in case an interfaith couple wants a civil marriage; if not, it is up to the couple if one wishes to convert to the other’s faith” and that it was the duty of the State and the courts to protect the pair if they seek help”.

“But under the Narendra Modi-led government, love jihad has become a way of persecuting such marriages — as though honour killings and khap panchayats were not enough,” it charged.

‘Love jihad’ smacks of dangerous over-reach, paranoia’
The Indian Express too claimed that the “proposed law against ‘love jihad’ degrades women. It said it is “exceptionally bad news for Indian women.”

Also, the newspaper editorial cautioned that the “law against what they call “love jihad” smacks of dangerous over-reach and a paranoia about inter-personal relations that has no place in a democracy.”

Stating that such a law does not have “any basis in the constitution”, it too reminded how “as recently as February, the Union home ministry told Parliament that there was nothing called “love jihad” under the existing laws in the country and that the Constitution gave everyone the freedom to practise and propagate any religion.”

As for the announcement by BJP leaders, the editorial said the issue has been “used to delegitimise inter-faith love and unions, and pit Muslims and Hindus as others in a zero-sum game of demographic domination that has little correspondence with reality.”

It also charged that “by attempting to enshrine such toxic prejudice in law, both Adityanath and Manohar Lal Khattar do disservice to their constitutional responsibilities.”

As for conversion, it said, “there are enough laws on the statute book that are adequate to convict those accused of the crime or tackle coercive conversion”.

‘There can be no legislation based on an extra-legal concept’
The Hindu termed the proposal to enact laws a “vicious mix of patriarchy and communalism”. Its editorial, titled “Uncivil proposal: On laws to curb ‘love jihad’,”said “the ostensible reason for bringing in such a law seems to be that the “honour” of Hindu women is under threat from zealous Muslim youth seeking to win over girls from other communities for religious conversion in the name of love and marriage.”

Stating that this idea itself was flawed, the editorial said: “The flaws in the concept are quite obvious: there is no legal sanction to self-serving and political terms such as ‘love jihad’ and there can be no legislation based on an extra-legal concept.”

It said Adityanath and Khattar were “using the term ‘love jihad’ in a communal sense and speaking about marriages as if they were not a matter of personal choice.”

Stating that it was “salutary as a principle that inter-faith couples retain their religious beliefs separately and opt for marriage under the Special Marriage Act,” the editorial said, “however, this principle cannot be used to derogate from personal choice or become a ruse to interfere in the individual freedom to forge matrimonial alliances.”

Courtesy The Wire