Other States

54 arrested in U.P. under unlawful conversion ordinance so far

At least 91 persons have been booked and 54 arrested so far, an overwhelming number of them Muslims, under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.

The most number of arrests have been made in Etah (14) followed by Sitapur (13), Mau (8), Gautam Buddha Nagar (4), Azamgarh (3) and Firozabad (3).

In a counter affidavit submitted before the Allahabad High Court on January 4, a copy of which has been seen by The Hindu, the U.P. government said it had registered 16 cases under the new ordinance, booking 86 persons, of which 54 had been arrested while 31 others were yet to be arrested. The FIRs were spread across 14 districts of six administrative zones of the State. The other districts are Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Bareilly, Kannauj, Hardoi, Bijnor and Shahjahanpur.

In addition to these cases, an FIR was registered in Shahjahanpur on January 3 against five persons, including two Christians from Tamil Nadu and two local Dalits, on charges of allegedly trying to allure a Bajrang Dal convenor into conversion for jobs and free education for children. However, no arrests were made in the case.

A look into these 17 cases shows that barring a Hindu driver in Sitapur, two Tamil Christians and three Hindus in Shahjahanpur, and seven persons with Hindu names accused of unlawful conversion in Gautam Buddha Nagar and Azamgarh, the rest of the accused are Muslims.

On January 7, more than a month after booking a Haridwar-based Muslim labourer under the new ordinance for allegedly trying to coerce and allure a married Hindu woman from Muzaffarnagar to convert, the Uttar Pradesh government told the Allahabad High Court that they found no evidence of unlawful conversion against him and have dropped the charges. However, the police filed a chargesheet under charges of criminal intimidation against him. The case had been connected to a petition filed in the HC challenging the ordinance.

When asked if there had been additions to the number of cases lodged under the ordinance since the filing of the counter affidavit on January 4, Additional Advocate General Manish Goyal said the counter reflected the status of the cases at the time it was filed. “Further progress might have taken place. Some other cases might have been filed after the filing of the counter,” he said, adding that he was unaware of any new cases.

A petitioner, Saurabh Kumar of Prayagraj, had prayed for the ordinance to be declared ultra vires saying it was “both morally and constitutionally repugnant”. Following this, the HC issued a notice to the government and sought their response.

The provisions giving State policing powers over a citizen’s choice of life partner or religion militate against the fundamental rights to individual autonomy, privacy, human dignity and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the petitioner submitted.

The Ordinance leads to an unreasonable intrusion into the domain of a personal autonomy, the petitioner further said.

In its response, the State government in a counter affidavit filed through the Special Secretary-Home Department defended the ordinance and said it was safeguarding community interests. “When there is fear psychosis in the community at large and the community itself is endangered and succumbs to the pressure resulting in forceful conversion, under the said circumstances it becomes necessary that the interest of the community as a whole requires protection and no micro analysis of individual interest can be looked into,” the counter affidavit said.

Nowhere has the term “love jihad” been employed in the ordinance, the government further said, rebutting one of the points. “The ordinance is equally applicable to all forms of forceful conversion and is not confined to inter faith marriages. Hence it cannot be said that the ordinance is promulgated in the name of “Love Jihad,” the government said.

Shashwat Anand, counsel for the petitioner challenging the ordinance, said the ordinance was brought in to “demonise and target one particular community”.

“The political and communal gimmick of ‘Love Jihad’, which was earlier solely confined to the ‘Us Vs Them’ narrative espoused by the ‘WhatsApp university’ political rallies and societal fringes has manifested itself as a legislation,” he said.

The matter will be heard next on January 18.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 11:26:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/54-arrested-in-up-under-unlawful-conversion-ordinance-so-far/article33582567.ece

Next Story