‘There should not be a problem if two persons of different faiths decide to marry and stay together without either of the two having to change his or her religion’
Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India
AHMEDABAD — Even as the Gujarat government geared up to enact a new law to combat coercive interfaith marriages, the so-called ‘love jihad’, amid mounting pressure from the state’s influential Patel community, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale said on Thursday that conversion was not necessary for interfaith marriages, and appealed for promotion of intercaste marriages.
“There should not be a problem if two persons of different faiths decide to marry and stay together without either of the two having to change his or her religion. The law will be applied only if conversion is involved,” said the Union Minister of State for Social Justice.
Athawale, who is also president of the Republican Party of India-A (RPI-A), an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led 25-party National Democratic Alliance, told journalists here that intercaste marriages needed to be promoted on a massive scale to end casteism.
He said that India registered one lakh intercaste marriages every year, with Gujarat witnessing 2,726 such nuptials during 2016-20 — a 27 per cent growth in the past four years, from 667 during 2016-17 to 846 during 2019-20.
Both the Union and state governments provide financial assistance to couples who are from different castes and get married. The Gujarat government provides Rs 1 lakh for couples opting for intercaste marriages.
“The Ambedkar Foundation gives Rs 2.5 lakh for every intercaste marriage to bring two castes together. This is important to end casteism in the country,” said Athawale.
While the BJP-controlled Gujarat government is studying the anti-conversion laws enforced in saffron-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the 15-million-strong, affluent Patel community have put the screws on the Vijay Rupani administration to bring in a stringent law to check interfaith marriages.
Leaders of various community associations, who claim to have received several complaints from parents of Hindu girls eloping with Muslim boys, have begun submitting memoranda to the local authorities demanding a legislation that would not only curb ‘love jihad’ but will also make parents’ approval mandatory for such marriages.
No wonder, the government has asked its home, law and legislative and parliamentary affairs departments to put the new anti-conversion laws in BJP-ruled states under the lens and send the feedback.
A senior legal department official told Clarion India that either the current Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 prohibiting conversion from one religion to another by use of force, allurement or fraudulent means would be suitably amended or an altogether new stricter law would be introduced soon.