India

Amid "Love Jihad" Row, Assam's Twist: Couple Must State Religion, Income

Amid

Proposed law meant to empower women, not aimed at 'love jihad': Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (File)

Guwahati:

Assam is planning a law that will require the bride and groom to declare their religion and income in official documents a month before the wedding. Against the backdrop of many other BJP-ruled states bringing in laws to check "love jihad", the Assam government says its aim is to "empower our sisters".

The ruling BJP's move comes ahead of polls in Assam next year, which the party is confident of winning. State Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government's law was not entirely like the ones in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, but would be similar.

"Assam's law is a not against 'love jihad'. It would be inclusive of all religions and would empower our sisters by bringing transparency...One will have to disclose not only religion, but earning source. Complete family details, education etc. Many a times even in same religion marriage we have found that the girl later finds that the husband is in an illegal business," said Mr Sarma.

The proposed law will require the man and the woman to disclose their source of income, profession, permanent address and religion in a government-prescribed form a month before the wedding, failing which legal action would be taken, the minister said.

"Our law will empower women. It will have the some elements of the law in UP and MP," Mr Sarma said.

"Love jihad" is a pejorative used by right-wing groups to target relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, which, they say, is part of a larger design to forcibly convert the women.

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It is a term not officially recognised by the central government. In February this year, the Home Ministry had told parliament that: "Love Jihad is not defined in law" and no such case had been reported by central agencies.

But several BJP-ruled states, including Haryana, Karnataka and even Bihar, have been talking of introducing a law to check "love jihad". UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cited an Allahabad High Court order to issue a thinly-veiled threat to "those who... play with our sisters' respect".

However, weeks later the same court said "two adults are free to choose their partner", and that the previous judgement which said "conversion for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable", was "not a good law".

Last week, Uttar Pradesh became the first state to pass an ordinance to check forced religious conversions with jail of up to 10 years. Days later, the Madhya Pradesh government also drafted a bill to punish "love jihad".