Lucknow: Twenty-one-year-old Uvaish Ahmed was pursuing a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) course and had dreams of joining the Indian Army. However, these plans took a backseat when he was arrested and jailed by the Bareilly police under the newly-passed ordinance against conversion in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, Uvaish was the first person to be arrested under this law.
He spent three weeks at the Bareilly district jail and was able to secure bail after depositing a bail bond for Rs 50,000. The young man said that he had no idea why he was booked by the police but that the incident had shattered his dream of joining the army.
“I always wanted to join the Indian Army and serve the country but now I have a police case registered against myself and I will never be able to join the army if the FIR is not quashed,” said Uvaish, standing in a field owned by his father.
Uvaish is the youngest of ten siblings and had aimed to join the armed forces and serve the country. “I do not know the reason why people file cases against me. I missed out on my studies the last time an FIR was registered against me for an alleged incident of kidnapping in 2019 involving the same girl. The girl had recorded her statement in front of the court saying that she didn’t know me and tried to flee her house on her own will but an FIR was still registered against me,” he said.
“The surprising bit is that the father of the same girl filed a police complaint against me and alleged that I threatened the girl for conversion. However, the fact is that the girl was married in her own community and in a different village. In fact I have nothing to do with the girl,” Uvaish said on the phone.
Mohammad Aarif, the Bareilly-based advocate representing Uvaish in the local court, told NewsClick that the old case was repackaged by the police into an entirely new case.
“We do not know under what conditions or under what pressure was the police complaint registered against my client. The pattern which I have read about shows that youths belonging to a particular religion are being targeted by this law in the state of Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
Uvaish had to drop out of college and is now a daily-wager to support his family.
As per official information gleaned from different districts in Uttar Pradesh, over 50 people have been arrested under the new ordinance and 14 separate FIRs were filed within a month of the ordinance being passed. Sections of the newly-passed ordinance were added to an old FIR which was registered on November 26 last year.
Rishi Trivedi sitting in his office.
The FIR was registered at the Tambor police station based on a complaint by the girl's father who has been reportedly missing since then. The ‘love jihad’ ordinance was cleared by the Governor on November 28, 2020. Interestingly, on November 29, sections of the new law were added to the same FIR.
Tambor Station House Office (SHO) Amit Singh Bhadouriya told NewsClick that “Sections 3 and 5 of the new ordinance and two sections of the Indian Penal Code, Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 368 (wrongful confinement) were added to the initial FIR. The main accused was on the run with seven people arrested in this case.”
Self-Proclaimed Hindutva Custodians and Their Modus Operandi:
NewsClick travelled to the outskirts of Lucknow to meet Rishi Trivedi, the state president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), a Hindutva group established in 1915 with the objective of making India a Hindu Rashtra.
The same outfit was responsible for halting the marriage of an interfaith couple in Lucknow last month.
Beginning the conversation with “Jai Hindu Rashtra” (Hail Hindu Nation), Trivedi said that their objective was to stop Hindu daughters from “falling in the trap of Muslims” and their “love jihad” conspiracy.
“A Hindu daughter in Lucknow has fallen into this trap but we cannot do anything other than making them understand that this is not right. This was the reason why we informed the police and requested authorities to get the marriage solemnised as per the new law formed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the state. We do not have any problem with love but the problem here is jihad,” he said, adding: “No one in the Hindu religion will accept a daughter who has been married to a Muslim man and she will be boycotted by society. So we are keeping our eyes and ears on the ground to not let any of our daughters fall for the Love Jihad trap.”
Speaking about the outfit’s modus operandi of sourcing information about the interfaith couples, Trivedi said he has men deployed in Muslim-majority areas who have their networks to track such couples.
“There are thousands of people associated with us. We get a tip off from them and when we are sure we approach the administration and authorities to get things done the right way. We have our guys in the marriage registrar office, in district court and at times we do get tips from even the local police. We cannot let our Hindu daughters be married to Muslim men. Is there any dearth of Hindu boys in India? How can a couple get married without the consent of their community and parents?” he asked.
Talha Rashadi, an Azamgarh-based lawyer said: “Adding new sections to old cases are not going to stand for a second in the court and this should immediately be stopped. This seems to be for targeting youths of a particular community.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India declined to grant an immediate stay on the anti-conversion laws from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The apex court issued notices on two petitions challenging the laws which have provisions that prohibit religious conversions for the purpose of marriage.