Uttar Pradesh government had introduced the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion ordinance in November 2020, and it was made into a law by UP assembly in February this year.
The law has been introduced to counter a variety of illegal conversion tactics including grooming jihad, colloquially known as ‘Love Jihad’, in which radicalized Muslim youth usually assume fake identities to lure and sexually exploit non-Muslim girls, before often forcing them for conversion and marriage.
Now, news has come of the first ever conviction and sentencing under this law, which media often misleadingly refers to as just the ‘anti-Love Jihad law’, to hide the wider problem of illegal conversions, such as fake healing by missionaries, which this law tackles.
The case dates back to 2017. A minor Hindu girl from an SC community was lured by one Javed, who had kept a Hindu name, to elope with him. The accused had repeatedly raped the minor and was forcing her to convert to Islam and marry him. The incident occurred in Kanpur’s Juhi area, which is a hotbed of grooming jihad.
After the girl’s parents filed a missing person complaint, she was rescued and Javed arrested. He was charged for rape, under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act), SC/ST Act etc. After the new anti-conversion law came into force, additional sections were added against him.
Today, a Kanpur court has found the accused Javed guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison and fined him Rs. 30,000. The victim will receive Rs. 20,000 from the fine amount. As courts were under lockdown during Covid-19, the case was put on the fast-track once courts reopened and the trial was completed in 2 months.
While the 10-year prison sentence is welcome, the fine is far too less. This fine should be drastically increased to act as a real deterrent. Now, it is up to higher courts to uphold this judgement and ensure justice to the victim and her family.
Since the anti-conversion law was first introduced until August 31, 2021, 108 cases have been filed in UP under the new law and charge-sheets filed in 72 of these cases. The largest number of cases have been lodged in Bareilly zone (28) and Meerut zone (23).