The Prevention of Illegal Conversion of Religions in Haryana Bill 2022 was approved by the state cabinet on Wednesday, NDTV reported. The bill seeks to prohibit religious conversions by threat, coercion, fraud, seduction, misrepresentation and by marriage or for marriage.
It will be tabled in the state Legislature, which is expected to begin from March 2.
In a video posted on Twitter, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the bill is being introduced to end illegal and forced religious conversions.
He said the bill also contains provisions allowing people to convert. For this, he said, those who want to convert will have to declare that they are voluntarily changing their religion and file an application.
“If he does not notify the conversion and marries by force, converts under fraud or seduction, he [the conversion] will be illegal,” Khattar said. “To stop this, this law is brought before the Vidhan Sabha.”
Bill aims to tackle ‘love jihad’ – a conspiracy theory embraced by Hindutva activists, claiming that Muslim men lure Hindu women to marry them in order to later convert them to Islam.
In November, Haryana’s Home Minister Anil Vij said his government had formed a three-member committee to draft a “love jihad” law. That same month, Khattar also said his government was reviewing the constitutional legality of a law that would prevent “love jihad” in the state.
The state Cabinet-approved bill’s “Statements of Purposes and Reasons” said there had been “countless cases” of forced religious conversions in the state. He claimed that “pseudo-social organizations with a hidden agenda” are present in the state to convert vulnerable sections of other religions.
“Recently, several cases have come to realize that in order to increase the strength of their own religion by converting people of other religions, people marry people of another religion by distorting or concealing their own religion and after getting married, they force another person to convert to their own religion,” he said.
The bill said such incidents of forced conversions not only violate freedom of religion, but “militate” people against the secular fabric of society, reported The Hindu.
The bill gives authorities the power to investigate such cases. It also makes it possible to declare null and void marriages celebrated by concealment of religion.
“Provide that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion has not been affected by misrepresentation, use of force, threat, undue influence, coercion, seduction or by any means fraudulent or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of effecting conversion rests with the accused,” the bill says.
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While Bharatiya Janata party ministers in the state have cited ‘love jihad’ as the reason for introducing the bill, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, chairman of the Jannayak Janta party, is not in favour. of the term, according to NDTV.
In an interview with NDTV, Chautala said he disagreed with the term “love jihad”.
“We will have a law specifically to control forced religious conversion and we will support it,” he said. “If someone voluntarily converts or marries a partner from another religion, then there is no obstacle.”
Several BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already enacted anti-conversion laws, citing the “jihad of love”.
The term is used despite the BJP-run Center’s statement to Lok Sabha in February 2020 that no “cases of ‘love jihad’ have been reported by any of the central agencies”.
Investigations by the National Investigation Agency, Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department, Uttar Pradesh Special Investigation Team and others have revealed no evidence of this alleged plot. The National Commission for Women also does not keep data on “love jihad”.