Approved by Madhya Pradesh cabinet to curb incidents of "love jihad", the state's Freedom of Religion Bill reportedly exempts reconversion to "ancestral religion".
According to a report by Hindustan Times, the proposed law — Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020 — mentions that 'Paitrik Dharm me Wapsi' will not be treated as conversion. The draft law defines "ancestral religion" as the religion of the father of the person at the time of his birth.
Elaborating on the exemption, Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra said re-conversion will not be a punishable offence under this law because it is "more a realisation of a mistake than a crime".
Mishra claimed that once enacted, the law in MP will be the most stringent in the country. Offenses under the proposed law will be cognizable and non-bailable. The bill, which seeks to replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968, will be tabled in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Mishra said.
Those willing to convert will need to apply to the district administration 60 days in advance. The religious leaders facilitating the conversion will also have to inform about it 60 days in advance. Violation of these provisions would attract jail term of three to five years and fine of Rs 50,000, the minister said.
In case of mass conversions (of two or more persons), a provision of five to ten years of imprisonment and minimum fine of Rs one lakh has been made, Mishra said. Repeat offenders will face five to ten years of imprisonment, Mishra said, adding that the registration of any organization involved in such violation would be canceled.
A similar law was recently enforced by the Uttar Pradesh government through an Ordinance. The UP law does not provide for parental property rights to the children of inter-faith marriage, monthly maintenance and Rs 50,000 fine for inter-faith marriage without the permission of the district magistrate, stated HT.
In Madhya Pradesh, however, a child born to the victim women will be entitled to get maintenance under the proposed law. Such children would be entitled to inherit the father's properties too.
'Love jihad' was coined by right-wing activists as a derogatory term to refer to the alleged campaign of Muslims forcing Hindu girls to convert in the guise of love. Later, the word began to be used for incidents of forced conversions.