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Nearly a Dozen Muslim Men Arrested Under New Conversion Law in UP

Families of some arrested Muslim boys allege misuse of law, citing cases where marriage was consensual.
Nearly a Dozen Muslim Men Arrested Under New Conversion Law in UP

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh police in Moradabad district on Saturday made its seventh arrest under the newly promulgated anti-conversion law that targets “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory coined by Hindutva groups who accuse Muslim men of marrying Hindu women to lure them into converting to Islam.

The man, identified as Rashid, and his brother were arrested by the police under the newly passed Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 on a complaint filed by the woman’s mother, police told NewsClick. Meanwhile, members of the fanatic Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal have also taken credit for the arrest and have claimed that it is they who tipped off the police. 

The arrested men were booked under Section 3 of new ordinance that deals with forced conversion. Both face between 1-5 years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 15,000 if the charges against them hold in a court. 

Rashid had reportedly married a woman from Bijnore in Dehradun about five months ago. The two had met in Uttarakhand’s capital, Dehradun, where Rashid works and the girl used to study there. The woman told local reporters at the registrar’s office that she was an adult and married Rashid a few months ago (July 24, 2020) of her free will. It is not clear if the man or the woman had converted or were planning to do so.  

“I got married of my own free will. I am an adult, my age is 22. We have been married for five months” the woman told journalists inside Kanth police station, adding that she had been friends with the man for two years. She was at police station after members of the Bajrang Dal prevented them from proceeding with formalities outside the marriage registration office and took them to the police station.

A purported video of the incident doing the rounds on social media platforms, shows men from the Right-wing outfit surrounding the 22-year-old woman inside the premises of the Kanth police station and heckling the couple.

Video of Bajrang Dal men, in presence of police, confront the girl in Moradabad. pic.twitter.com/FHShsfVfol

— Piyush Rai (@Benarasiyaa) December 7, 2020

“Have you read the new law or not?” a man can be heard saying, adding, “Ye qanoon tum jaise logon ke liye banana pada hai (the law had to be made for people like you)”. Another man can be seen screaming at the woman.  

Reacting to the woman’s claims that her marriage was consensual, Kanth station house officer Ajay Gautam said: “All things will come out during the probe” and added, “She will get an opportunity to say what she wants in court.”

Another senior police official Vidya Sagar told Newclick: “We have arrested both men and will investigate the case thoroughly. “We have registered the case on the basis of a complaint file by the woman’s mother, and initiated the probe; two persons have been arrested and the probe is underway."

When Newsclick asked the police officials to provide the First Information Report (FIR) copy, he refused to share the copy and disconnected the phone. 

10 ARRESTS IN A WEEK 

This is the fifth such case to be lodged under the new law. In some recent cases, the Uttar Pradesh police made its first arrest in Bareilly on November 28 within a few hours of Governor Anandiben Patel giving her assent to the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.  

In another case, seven persons were arrested and eight booked in Sitapur, while 14 persons were booked in Mau and two charged in Muzaffarnagar. The police in the state capital, Lucknow, stopped an interfaith marriage, citing the new law to check ‘forcible and fraudulent’ conversions. 

Reacting on the arrests under the new ordinance, Mohammad Shoaib, advocate and president of Rihai Manch, an outfit headed by him that provides legal help to victims of hate crimes and also those implicated in "false" terror cases said: "Muslims need to take precautions if they are getting married to a Hindu girl as BJP will use all mechanisms to implicate Muslims under this law," adding that Rihai Manch will soon launch an awareness programme on the new law.  

Lucknow-based lawyer Hamid Khan said: "The Yogi Adityanath cabinet cleared the ordinance despite the Allahabad high court upholding the right to freedom of choice of individuals. This is a new tactic by the BJP government to harass Muslims and send them to jail without proving them guilty. We request the apex court to look into this new law and strike it down," adding that the term 'love jihad' itself is a farce. “How can one bring jihad into a relationship? He said. 

‘MISUSE OF LAW’

The initial cases registered under the newly promulgated anti-conversion law in UP have come under scrutiny, as families of those booked have raised questions on police action, alleging that the government was misusing the law against Muslims. 

A family on the condition of anonymity told NewsClick:  "The police have been given an order by the government to find out such cases and harass Muslims and police is following the order to gain brownie points. This law is not only for Muslims but is it being shown that only Muslims are involved and are doing so on the pretext of marriage. One of my relatives was arrested last week despite the fact that his wedding took place with full consent."

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