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Thursday Dec 03 2020
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First Indian Muslim man arrested under 'love-jihad' law

— AFP

A Muslim man from India's Uttar Pradesh state has been arrested after being accused of attempting to convert a Hindu woman to Islam through marriage, BBC reported on Thursday.

He is reported to be the first man to have been booked under a controversial new "love jihad" law approved by the country's Hindu nationalist government last week. The law lays out prison terms for anyone "compelling others to convert their faith or luring them into these conversions through marriage", according to a Reuters report.

The law has sparked outrage, with critics terming it Islamophobic. After UP, four other states are reported to be preparing to bring in similar legislation.

According to BBC, the man, arrested on Wednesday, was accused by a Hindu woman's father of "putting pressure" on his daughter to convert and of even "threatening her" with consequences if she didn't.

The woman was reported to have been in a relationship with the man but she got married to someone else earlier this year.

Furthermore, according to the report, the man had earlier been accused of kidnapping the woman by her family, but after she denied any such thing, the case was dropped.

The man has been sent to jail on judicial remand for 14 days. He was quoted by BBC as saying he has "no link with the woman".

The new law carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and bail cannot be sought.

'Pre-election agenda'

Critics have said the unlawful conversion order approved by the cabinet of Uttar Pradesh state, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP, was aimed at further alienating India's 170 million Muslims by painting them as aggressors plotting to weaken Hindus.

Little data exists to show how many interfaith marriages took place in the state, the first in the country to bring in such legislation.

Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh said prison terms of up to five years were "necessary to stop unlawful conversions" and provide justice to women who have suffered from them.

Under the new law, a man and woman belonging to different religions will have to give two months' notice to the district magistrate before they get married and they will be allowed to tie the knot if there are no objections.

Hindus makes up 80% of India's 1.3 billion population. But hardline groups accuse political parties of appeasing minority groups such as Muslims for votes and in recent years have stepped up a campaign for a Hindu-first India.

Nusrat Jahan, a member of the national parliament from a regional group most active in the neighbouring state of West Bengal, told NDTV television news channel the decree smacked of politics — even though regional elections are at least a year away.

"This is just another agenda before the elections. There is nothing like 'love jihad' that exists. People can make their own decisions," she said.