“We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even the state can have an objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together”: Allahabad High Court
Kashif Ahmad Faraz | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—On a day the Allahabad High Court ruled that an adult man and a woman have a right to marry and live together, irrespective of their religion, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Kanpur police blasted the myth that there was a conspiracy of “love Jihad” and foreign funding in 14 cases in which Muslims youths have married Hindu girls in the city of Kanpur.
In its report released yesterday, the SIT ruled out alleged “love jihad” and said that it found no evidence of any funding from abroad or any organised conspiracy.
The SIT report also said that there was no backing to the youths from any political or social group in any of the 14 cases.
The issue of interfaith marriages, particularly involving Muslim men and Hindu women, have been blown out of proportion by some right-wing Hindu groups and this has also influenced the political parties, particularly the BJP, whose governments in several states are going to further amend the existing laws intending to make it difficult for interfaith marriages in their respective states. Just two days ago, the UP government headed by Yogi Adityanath announced that it would bring an ordinance to prevent unlawful conversions in the state, interpreted to be aimed at cases of “love jihad”. Yogi Adityanath used the Hindu funeral song ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’ on 31 October at a rally to threaten Muslim youths if they marry Hindu girls by converting their religion.
The SIT was formed on a complaint by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) who claimed that Muslim youths married the gullible Hindu girls by converting their religion through deception. The VHP had alleged that such Muslim youths were also financially supported by groups from abroad. As the cases of Hindu girls marrying Muslim youths increased over the years and it was regularly reported by the media, the Hindu groups termed it “love Jihad” to demonise Muslims by projecting this as an organized plot against Hindu community.
The issue of interfaith marriages in Kanpur came into limelight after the marriage of a Hindu girl-Shalini Yadav-was raised by media. After receiving threats from her family, Shalini not only demanded security for the safety of her life and that of her husband but she also circulated a video on social media saying that she had married a Muslim husband on her own free will. She also said she converted to Islam without any pressure.
The SIT probe was led by Deputy Police Superintendent Vikas Pandey. Pandey investigated all the 14 cases of interfaith marriages involving Hindu girls and Muslim youths under different police stations across the Kanpur district. Chargesheets have already been filed in eight of these cases. He submitted his report to Inspector General of Police, Kanpur Range, Mohit Agarwal.
“The SIT probe did not find any solid evidence that the accused worked as part of a conspiracy in an organized way. The investigative team also found no group to be behind the (accused) youths. They were also not being sponsored from abroad,’ Agarwal told mediapersons.
Out of the 14 cases investigated by the SIT, the girls have given statements in favour of their husbands in three cases and hence, these cases have been closed.
IG said that action would be taken in remaining 11 cases as Muslim boys married the Hindu girls by hiding their Muslim identity and the girls in these 11 cases have given their statements against their Muslim husbands. This is a strong ground to prosecute them.
“The crime was detected in 11 cases out of the 14 cases investigated”, said Agarwal. In response to a question about the nature of these crimes, Agarwal said that the men had “given false names to coax the girls and the girls say they found out later these men are from a different religion.
Agarwal, however, claimed that in 11 cases, a chargesheet was filed and the accused were arrested. He said that Sections 363 (punishment for kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping, abducting or forcing a woman to induce her marriage, etc ) of the Indian Penal Code and other charges are included in the charges against the accused. The girls were said to be minor in eight cases.
Meanwhile, the Allahabad High Court, in an important order on Monday, affirmed that “the right of a citizen to live with people of his or her choosing, regardless of religion, is inherent in the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution”.
A bench consisting of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal ruled that two of its previous verdicts, which claimed that religious conversion was prohibited solely for the purpose of a marriage, were incorrect and did not provide for “good law.”
The HC argued that if both parties are adults and in a consenting partnership, the issue of religious conversion is irrelevant. The state cannot encroach on the right of two adults to remain together.
Justice Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Vivek Agarwal remarked, “We fail to understand that if the law permits two persons even of the same sex to live together peacefully then neither any individual nor a family nor even the state can have an objection to the relationship of two major individuals who out of their own free will are living together.”
The High Court bench pronounced the order in a case pertaining to the marriage of Priyanka, a Hindu girl and Salamat, a Muslim youth. The Hight Court stated, “We do not see Priyanka Kharwar and Salamat as Hindu and Muslim, rather as two grown-up individuals who out of their own free will and choice are living together peacefully and happily over a year. The Courts and the Constitutional Courts, in particular, are enjoined to uphold life and liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”