New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh Police have registered a total of 108 cases under a controversial ordinance that criminalises religious conversion by “force, undue influence, coercion, or allurement”. The ordinance includes within its ambit marriage for the sake of religious conversion.
The Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020, which was replaced by an Act earlier this year, completes a year Wednesday. The aforementioned cases were filed between 24 November 2020, when the ordinance was promulgated, and 31 August this year.
According to UP Police data accessed by ThePrint, chargesheets have been filed in 72 of the 108 cases. Final reports have been filed in 11 cases due to lack of evidence against those named in the police complaint, and investigation is under way for 24 of the complaints. The investigation of one case has been transferred to Bengaluru.
The largest number of cases in UP have been lodged in Bareilly zone (28), Meerut zone (23), Gorakhpur zone (11), Lucknow zone (nine), and Agra zone (nine). Both Prayagraj and Gautam Buddh Nagar stand at seven each, while Varanasi and Lucknow are at six cases. Kanpur has only two such cases registered.
A controversial law
This law was passed by the UP government to tackle “unlawful religious conversions” and to address “love jihad”, which is described as an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to convert Hindu women to Islam by wooing and marrying them.
Depending on the severity of the “crime”, those found guilty can land in jail for up to 10 years. Fines range from Rs 15,000 to 50,000. Interfaith couples who wish to get married must inform the district magistrate two months in advance.
The law provides for one to five years’ imprisonment with a minimum fine of Rs 15,000 for forced conversions, and three to 10 years of jail time for the conversion of minors and women from the SC/ST community. For forceful mass conversions, the jail term is three to 10 years and a Rs 50,000 fine.
According to the law, a marriage shall be declared “null and void” if it is found that the sole intention of wedlock was to convert the woman.
A slew of arrests
Within nine months of the ordinance being promulgated, police had arrested at least 189 people in connection with anti-conversion cases.
According to the data, 257 people were named in the 108 cases, but police investigations identified an additional 83 suspects, taking the total number to 340. Of these, 56 were found to not be guilty of breaking the law. Between November last and 31 August, 31 of the complainants were minors. In addition, 77 women have recorded their statements with a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC.
A few of the cases where final reports were submitted have been in the news for alleged misuse of the law.
In December last year, for instance, a Muslim man in Moradabad was arrested along with his brothers under the anti-conversion law. His Hindu wife suffered a miscarriage after five days of alleged torture at the Nari Niketan, and had told ThePrint that Bajrang Dal activists had “dragged” her husband and her to the police station. The man and his brother, who was also arrested, were subsequently released.
In January this year, five people in Shahjahanpur were booked for allegedly trying to convert people to Christianity based on a complaint from Ram Lakhan Verma, the city convenor of the Bajrang Dal.
An earlier version of the report erroneously mentioned that 77 women have recorded their statements with police in connection with cases under the law. The statements were recorded with magistrates. The error is regretted.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)