Tuesday, March 16, 2021

India's interfaith couples on edge after new law

 A controversial new anti-conversion law that criminalises interfaith love has put Hindu-Muslim couples on edge. Now, they face the wrath of not just their families, but also the Indian state.The iron door opened just enough for the girl to peep out. She looked scared.

BBC NEWS

Ayesha and her boyfriend, Santosh (both their names have been changed) are on the run. "My parents have come to look for me and they are outside somewhere," Ayesha said. "We are scared. We have been asked to stay inside."

The couple, both 29, fled their home town in the western state of Gujarat. For now, they are living in a safe house - a nondescript two-story building - in Delhi. Also hiding with them is another couple from Uttar Pradesh state in India's north.

In November 2020, Uttar Pradesh became the first state to pass a law - Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance - banning "unlawful conversion" by force, fraudulent means or marriage. It was in response to what right-wing Hindu groups call "love jihad", an Islamophobic term denoting a baseless conspiracy theory that accuses Muslim men of seeking to make Hindu women fall in love with them with the sole purpose of converting them to Islam.

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