The Uttar Pradesh government recently cleared a draft ordinance to check “unlawful religious conversions” and “inter-faith marriages with the sole intention of changing a girl’s religion”, with a provision for jail term of up to 10 years.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Vidhi Virudh Dharma Samparivartan Pratishedh Adyadesh 2020, a marriage will be declared shunya or null and void if the “sole intention” was to “change a girl’s religion”.
Police have recorded five cases since the day this law came into force. But two of the cases, lodged within 24 hours of each other, exhibit a total contrast. They signal the hypocrisy and cops’ ability to craft their own course of action, thereby making the new law “selectively applicable”.
The Uttar Pradesh police arrested a man and his brother in Moradabad on Saturday under the new anti-conversion law after he tried to get his marriage to a Hindu woman registered.
Members of the Bajrang Dal prevented the three from proceeding with the formalities outside the marriage registration office and took them to the local police station.
The woman told reporters her marriage was consensual. “I am an adult, I am 22 years old. I got married of my own free will on the 24th of July. This is the fifth month that we have been married.”
The police claimed that an FIR was lodged by her mother alleging the man tricked her daughter into marriage and converted her on the pretext of getting her a job.
The arrested men have been booked under Section 3 of the recently promulgated Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. As per the ordinance, the duo could face between 1-5 years in prison if the charges against them holds in a court.
A similar case took place in Bareilly but the course of action was poles apart.
In Bareilly, the police on Saturday did not entertain the complaint of a father who alleged his daughter had married a Hindu man after conversion.
They claimed she got married in September, much before the law came into force hence there was no infringement of law.
The father in an FIR lodged at Prem Nagar police station stated his daughter had been kidnapped by three persons, including the owner of a firm where she was working.
He claimed on December 1, his daughter left home “to collect pending dues from her office” and did not return. Her phone was also switched off.
Station House Officer Avaneesh Kumar told The Indian Express after the case was filed, Alisha visited the station and said she was a major, denied the charge of kidnapping and confirmed that she had gone with Aman on her own.
The police got Alisha’s medical examination done and got her identified by her family. On Monday, they got her statement recorded before a magistrate in which she reiterated what she told police.
They said they did not invoke the new law because the girl’s father did not mention in his complaint that his daughter was being converted.
However, the father alleged: “The marriage could not be done without conversion. I had asked police to invoke the new law and look into the circumstances of the marriage. They were not ready to listen.”
Upon being asked why the new law was not invoked, the cops said: “The marriage took place in September when the anti-conversion law was not in place.”
The two cases highlight the insufficiency of the new law to deliver equal justice to all, irrespective of religion and any other social inequalities.