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Love Jihad: A Holy War or Disgrace?

Love Jihad: A Holy War or Disgrace?
- Sajal Jain, SLS Noida & Akshay Kumar, RMNLU Lucknow


Love Jihad is a concept introduced by Hindu extremists, they claim that Muslim men target Hindu women and convert them to Islam to wage a holy war against India. It has become a mere tool of spreading communal hatred and creating stereotypes against a particular community. More so ever the term is not recognized by the Indian legal system yet. Since the rise of the BJP to power, the term is widely used by the party to vilify interfaith marriages. 

The term was again in the spotlight as after Uttar Pradesh the Madhya Pradesh own version of Love Jihad law named Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020 came into effect. This came after the Uttar Pradesh government passed an ordinance prohibiting the religious conversions done by fraud, misrepresentation and allurement. Chief Minister of MP Shivraj Singh Chauhan stated that the new law is the repealed version of the Freedom of Religion Act, 1968 which became obsolete in the present context and needed to be repealed. The Home minister of the state Narrotam Mishra also called upon the law to be the most stringent conversion law made. While the MP’s conversion law came into power other BJP ruled states such as Haryana, Assam, Himachal Pradesh are also in the process to draft such a law.


Since the British -colonial era there were laws enacted by various Hindu majority princely states to check religious conversion. There were more than twelve such states including Kota, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Raigarh, Patna, Surguja, Udaipur, and Kalahandi. Most of the laws were enacted between 1930-1940. At that time these laws were enacted to stop religious conversions of Hindus against British missionaries. Some of the laws from that period include the Raigarh State Conversion Act, 1936; the Surguja State Apostasy Act, 1942; and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act, 1946.

After Independence religion became a state subject and parliament introduced various anti- conversion bills during 1954, 1960 and 1979 which failed to be enacted due to lack of support in parliament. The current BJP government at several instances voiced out its support for a national- level anti-conversion bill but their plans was halted after the law ministry specified the untenability of such a bill as religion is purely a state subject specified under the seventh schedule of the constitution.

Various states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh already have anti-conversion laws in place namely Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967; Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968; Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978; Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003; Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006. While there are some variations between the state laws, they are very similar in their content and structure. In every draft law, the aim was basically the same to curtail the rights of groups and persons to convert from one\'s forefathers\' religion, mostly in the name of shielding those who make up the \'weaker\' or more easily \'influenced\' segments of society, including women, girls, backward castes and untouchables.

As various state legislatures passed such laws there were various concerns arose out of them. A report published by USCIRF sums up such concerns, it stated “the anti-conversion laws both by their design and implementation infringe upon the individual’s right to convert, favour majority over minority religions, and represent a significant challenge to Indian secularism. ”Although in 1977 a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice A.N Ray in the case Rev Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh  held the anti-conversion laws of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa valid. In the judgement it was held that, “the right to convert into another religion is distinct from the right to propagate religion which is a fundamental right under Article 25(1) and the laws in question are not violative of the said fundamental right. But the concerns mentioned above can\'t be ignored.”


Originally, the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act was enacted in 1968 since then the law is amended three times subsequently in 2006, 2013, 2020. Amended bill in 2013 provided for up to three years and a fine of up to 50,000 rupees, and in the case of a minor, woman, or person belonging to an SC/ST up to four years and a fine of up to 100,000 rupees. However the new Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020 prescribes up to 10 years of jail if an offence is committed under this Bill. The offence committed under this bill will be cognizable and non -Bailable. Individuals willing to convert must send a declaration in 60 days’ advance to the district magistrate. Religious leaders (Maulvi, Karmkandi etc.) who are facilitating the conversion also have to send a declaration 60 days advance prior to conversion. A converted person or the immediate relatives of him/her can complain. In contrast with the Prohibition on Unlawful Bill, 2020 of UP the bill contains higher penalties such as ₹50000 in case of minors or adults as compared to ₹15000 in case of adults and ₹20000 for minors. The bill also provides for 10-year imprisonment and a minimum of ₹ 1 lakh fine in case of mass conversion (two or more persons). Although, the structural aspects of both the bills are more or less the same.


Interfaith marriages and conversion is a choice of one’s own and they are an intrinsic part of country’s multiculturalism and diversity. The law is not only draconian but also damages the secular fabric of the country. In a country like India where diversity and multiculturalism are deeply enrooted in its core values, this law provides a direct threat to these values and and the constitutional rights guaranteed. 

The law not only infringes upon the person’s right to choose a partner under article 21 but also doubts the judgment of an adult person. A particular section under this bill which requires a person to provide a declaration to the district magistrate and a preliminary inquiry to be conducted interferes with the fundamental right of a person to choose a partner with their wise judgment. It also hints towards the dubious intention of the government to stop interfaith marriages overall which will be detrimental for the secularism of society.
In 2018 a supreme court bench comprised of then Chief Justice Deepak Mishra, Justice A.M Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y Chandrachud overturned Kerala high court decision in the case  Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan  K.M popularly known as ‘Hadiya case’ and also opined that, ”the expression of choice in accord with the law is acceptance of individual identity. Curtailment of that expression and the ultimate action emanating there from on the conceptual structuralism of obeisance to the societal will destroy the individualistic entity of a person. The social values and morals have their space but they are not above the constitutionally guaranteed freedom. The said freedom is both a constitutional and a human right. Deprivation of that freedom which is ingrained in choice on the plea of faith is impermissible. The faith of a person is intrinsic to his/her meaningful existence’.

References :- 

1. Shafin Jahan v. Ashokan S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 5777 of 2017.
2. Rev Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1977 SCR (2) 611.
3. Madhya Pradesh Cabinet approves anti-conversion bill - The Hindu