Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Approves Freedom To Religion Bill 2020 As Ordinance

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The Madhya Pradesh state cabinet on Tuesday gave a green light to pass the Freedom To Religion Bill 2020 as an ordinance. In an alleged crackdown against forced religious conversion, termed by some as ‘love jihad,’ MP’s decision comes following a similar law in Uttar Pradesh. The MP government has made such conversion punishable with up to 10 years of prison. Home Minister Narottam Mishra has claimed that the ordinance, once effective, will be among the most stringent laws in the country.

The controversial bill was given the nod by MP Governor Anandiben Patel, who was previously the former Chief Minister of Gujarat. NDTV quoted HM Mishra confirming, “Several ordinances including Freedom of Religion Ordinance were approved in the virtual cabinet meeting headed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday.”

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What MP’s New Ordinance Will Reportedly Entail

According to a report by Indian Express, MP’s religious freedom bill focuses attention on conversion by “fraudulent means,” which would be punishable between one to five years. Meanwhile, using “impersonation” to forcefully change another’s religion will result in a higher penalty, with a jail term between three to ten years and Rs 50,000 in fine.

Reports quoted Mishra saying that MP’s new ordinance will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968. “The new legislation will prohibit religious conversion or such efforts by misrepresentation, allurement, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means. Abetment and conspiracy for religious conversion will also be prohibited under it,” Mishra reportedly said.

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‘Love Jihad’ Law Slammed As An Encroachment Of Liberty

As a similar law already enacted in UP as Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government, clocks in on one month, it has managed to draw severe flak. Many have slammed it saying that this law, which allegedly seeks to curb ‘love jihad‘ cases where Muslim men are believed to forcefully induct Hindu women into their religion, is actually an encroachment of personal liberty. Experts and probes have also reportedly not identified ‘love jihad’ as a patterned phenomenon. Read more here. 

Recently, it was reported that a 22-year-old woman, who was the first to be detained under UP’s ‘love jihad’ law, alleged that she suffered a miscarriage at a shelter home at Moradabad, after her husband – a Muslim man – was forcefully taken away by authorities. Most recently, another interfaith couple fled UP, seeking protection in Delhi amid fears of ‘love jihad’ allegations.