Several states in India have proposed a new ban on marriages between Hindus and Muslims. The suggested laws come as many in the nation have been gripped by fears that Muslim men are forcing Hindu women to convert in a strategy deemed "love jihad."
According to The Straits Times, several politicians have spoken out about the practice as the relationship between the two religious communities remain strained.
"The government is taking a decision to stop love jihad... I warn those who conceal their identities and disrespect our sisters. If you don't mend your ways, your funerals will begin soon," stated Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu cleric who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state and boasts a population of 166 million, and so an inter-faith ban would have a wide-reaching effect.
Other political leaders quickly echoed similar sentiments.
"There will be no jihad in the name of love, whoever does such an act will be set right," proclaimed Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who heads the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
CT Ravi, the head of tourism in Karnataka, tweeted that the southwestern state was also hoping to enact "a law banning religious conversions for the sake of marriage." Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of Haryana, similarly voiced his support for the measure. Haryana is home to over 25 million people and neighbors India's capital city of New Delhi.
But despite the strong rhetoric, experts have warned that there is little evidence that "love jihad" commonly occurs. In fact, multiple investigations conducted by Indian authorities have come to similar conclusions, with some deeming it nothing more than a conspiracy theory seeped in Islamophobia. In truth, investigators said that most of the accusations of forced conversion came from families who did not approve of consensual inter-faith marriages.
However, while there is no widespread evidence for "love jihad," there have been anecdotal instances that have fueled the conspiracy theories. For example, Pakistani human rights campaigners claimed that a 13-year-old Christian girl was allegedly kidnapped from her home in Karachi and forced to marry a 44-year-old man who made her convert to Islam, per The Daily Mail.
The case gained headlines and sparked protests after the courts upheld that the 13-year-old had both gotten married and converted to Islam by her own free will even though the minor reportedly tried to run to her mother in the courtroom and was physically restrained by her husband.
While the actual threat of "love jihad" remains up for debate, human rights campaigners are warning that a very real danger for Indian girls and women is the increase of trafficking and child marriages due to COVID-19 related lockdowns. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, the practice is on the rise, partially due to economic anxiety sparked by the pandemic.