On June 3, Devendra Fadnavis, the Deputy Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra, stated that a large number of ‘love jihad’ cases had been identified in the state during the investigation of missing person complaints. Love Jihad, a term used by hard-line Hindu organizations to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women through marriage, has been plaguing India’s interfaith couples since the year 2014.
Talking to reporters at Sahayadri guest house in Mumbai, the minister said, “Instances of innocent girls being lured into inter-religious marriages and (subsequent) exploitation are coming to light. We are concerned and will crack the whip.”
Fadnavis, who is also the State Home Minister, noted that in the state the detection rate for missing person allegations varied from 90% to 95%, the reason for which he has is making the allegation of “Love-Jihad”. Emphasising that such missing cases are taken very seriously, Fadnavis said, “The detection rate is up to 90 to 95 per cent. Yet, I agree more efforts will have to be put to stop such exploitation of innocent girls.”
“There are instances where we found that false promises were made or false identity was used, with even married persons trying to mislead women. Cases of ‘love jihad’ have come forward in large numbers,” he said, as has been reported by the Indian Express. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) senior leader said that the State government is exploring an option to enact a law against ‘love jihad’
Underlining the state government’s commitment to bring in legislation to tackle growing instances of atrocities on women through “love jihad”, Fadnavis said, “Maharashtra is among the few states which have been able to identify cases of missing girls,” as reported by the Hindu. Speaking further on legislation against “love jihad”, Fadnavis added, “Several states are working on it. We will study all aspects and how other states are doing it.”
Rally by BJP MLA against Love-Jihad in Pune
A day after Fadnavis said that cases of ‘love jihad’ are rising in the state, citing investigations into complaints of missing girls, on June 4, BJP leader and MLA Nitesh Rane led a rally in Pune against the so-called alleged incidents of “love jihad”. Several other right-winged activists also took part in the said march.
Notably, a 16-year-old girl, who had recently lodged a complaint of molestation, stalking, and sexual harassment against a 21-year-old man from a different religious community than her, also accompanied Rane during the above-mentioned rally from Dharmaveer Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje Chowk to Jay Hind Chowk in Ghorpadi Gaon of Pune, states the report in the Indian Express. It is crucial to note that based on the complaint of the minor girl, the accused was arrested and booked by the Pune city police under sections 354 (assaults or uses criminal force on any woman with the intention to outrage her modesty), 354D (stalking), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 11 (sexual harassment of child) and 12 (punishment for sexual harassment) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
When contacted, police officers declined to comment on the case citing the involvement of a minor and charges under the Act. Speaking to reporters, Rane accused leaders from opposition parties of denying, what he said, were cases of “love jihad”. “We have a government in the state that believes in the Hindutva ideology and will ensure that injustice is not done,” he said.
The Eknath Shinde-Fadnavis government had issues a controversial government resolution on December 15, constituting a committee to monitor inter-religious marriages. The GR was previously challenged by Samajwadi party, MLA in a write petition in the Bombay High Court which is pending. This GR has been challenged by four rights groups including Citizens for Justice and Peace. The matter comes up on June 12. The December 15 GR has been challenged on the ground that it is based on false assumptions of the real cause of intimate partner violence and argues that the right to privacy, the danger of state surveillance and executive overreach demand that this GR be first stayed, then quashed. Before this, the state government GR dated December 13, 2022 had also included the monitoring of inter-caste marriages but after a social and political uproar was amended. A Samajwadi Party MLA had also challenged the said GR.
Three months after the December 15 GR, in March 2023, according to an RTI response received by Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh from the government ministry, even after months have passed since the setting up of the 12 member Inter-faith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee, there are currently zero cases before the panel. On February 16, the Samajwadi Party MLA had written to the Maharashtra Women and Development Ministry, inquiring about the number of cases before the committee till date, and their details. On Monday, March 20, Rais Shaikh received a response stating that there was currently no case before the committee, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Incidentally, this comes just days after Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister and BJP leader, had announced that the state of Maharashtra had over one lakh ‘love jihad’ cases. The BJP leader made the remark during the Maharashtra Assembly Budget Session. Lodha had stated that “Maharashtra had more than one lakh cases of love jihad, which upset society.” he had then said that “the state government’s interfaith marriage committee has no say in anyone’s personal life or religion. But we want to avoid another Shraddha Walkar case. This is the government’s responsibility.”
Pursuant to the reply obtained by his MLA from the government the SP state president and MLA, Abu Asim Azmi, announced that he has filed a privilege motion against the minister for making false claims in the state assembly. “However, no response has yet been received from the legislature administration.” Azmi had further stated that if the privilege motion against Lodha is not approved by the Assembly, he will take the minister to court. “A group of people is attempting to polarise Maharashtra by making bogus claims of ‘love jihad,’ which are far from the reality on the ground,” he said, as was reported by the Hindustan Times.
Mangal Prabhat Lodha had also claimed last month that the 12-member committee had already received 152 complaints, which was obviously misleading information as it has now been revealed that the committee has not received a single complaint. R. Vimla, commissioner, women and child development, confirmed that the committee has not received a single complaint. She also serves on the interfaith committee, which is led by Lodha.