New Delhi: The top Congress leadership, including interim president Sonia Gandhi, as well as former party chief Rahul Gandhi, have maintained silence on the ‘love jihad’ controversy so far, despite multiple leaders of the party opposing the law brought in by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, has also not made any comment on the new law yet.
According to the law, conversion from one religion to another by “misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage” will be prohibited, and any marriage with the sole intention of changing the girl’s religion would be declared null and void.
Besides UP, ‘love jihad’ law has also been proposed by another BJP-ruled state, Madhya Pradesh. The MP government Wednesday doubled the jail term for forced religious conversions for marriage from five years to 10 years in its draft bill against ‘love jihad’.
The assumption behind the coinage of the term ‘love jihad’ is that a Hindu woman who converts to Islam after marriage, is doing so under force, and not by choice.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh said the senior party leadership is quiet because they are more concerned with “issues that affect common people”.
The Gandhis may have stayed quiet on the subject, but multiple Congress leaders, including two state CMs, have condemned the usage of the term ‘love jihad’ as well as the law.
Congress leaders speak up
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was one of the first Congress leaders to criticise the BJP for “manufacturing a word to divide the nation and disturb communal harmony”.
“It seems a ploy to disrupt communal harmony, fuel social conflict and disregard constitutional provisions like the state not discriminating against citizens on any ground,” he tweeted on 20 November.
It seems a ploy to disrupt communal harmony, fuel social conflict & disregard constitutional provisions like the state not discriminating against citizens on any ground.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) November 20, 2020
Subsequently, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel slammed the BJP.
“Family members of several BJP leaders have also performed inter-religion marriages… I ask BJP leaders if these marriages come under the definition of ‘love jihad’”? Baghel had said last month.
In Karnataka, Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Siddaramaiah Tuesday said the Congress will oppose the law if the state BJP government introduces it in the assembly.
Karnataka Congress president D.K. Shivakumar has also criticised the law last month, saying: “India is a secular and democratic country, and choosing a partner is an individual decision.”
In Maharashtra, Congress MLA and cabinet minister Aslam Shaikh last month said there is “no question” of such a law being introduced in the state.
Deputy Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi, had also hit out at the BJP for coining the term ‘love jihad’, saying it reveals the patriarchal mindset of the BJP.
“‘Love jihad’ reveals the patriarchal and regressive mindset of RSS-BJP where they don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose her life path or partner,” he had tweeted last month.
“Love Jihad” reveals the patriarchal and regressive mindset of RSS-BJP where they don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose her life path or partner. Bharat is the nation of strong women like Rani Jhansi, Indira Gandhi and Hima Das. BJP should not try to dictate to Indian women.
— Gaurav Gogoi (@GauravGogoiAsm) November 20, 2020
‘Top leadership concerned with issues that affect common people’
With several Congress leaders individually speaking against the law, the silence of the Gandhis is conspicuous.
However, Congress’s national spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh said: “I think our senior leadership is more concerned with the issues that affect common people, if we enter this type of Q&A then BJP’s ultimate objective will be achieved. They want their diversionary tactics to succeed.”
He added that the farmers’ protest and agitation are a cause of big worry at the moment, and that the BJP was indulging in “divide and diversionary tactics”.
“Whenever they have to address the public at large on important issues, they indulge in these D and D tactics — divide and diversionary tactics,” Vallabh added.
He also said multiple BJP members have themselves performed inter-faith marriages.
“I wonder what leaders like Sushil Modi and Shahnawaz Hussain would make of this law,” he added.
A functionary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) told ThePrint the Gandhis don’t want to wade into the controversy as it would mean “falling into the BJP’s trap by heeding to their diversionary tactics”.
“The minute the party officially opposes the law, it would snowball into the only issue prime time debates would discuss, and not the farmers’ protests,” the functionary said.
The AICC hasn’t released an official statement yet, opposing the ‘love jihad’ law of the UP government.