Amid ‘Love Jihad’ Row, Assam’s New Law Will Ask Couples To Declare Religion, Income

The Assam government is formulating a new marriage law under which the bride and groom will have to disclose their religion and income in official documents a month before the wedding, according to several media reports. This comes hot on the heels of announcements by several BJP-ruled states to bring in laws to check “love jihad”. 

State Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that the law will “empower our sisters by bringing transparency.”

“Assam’s law is 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 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 marriage law will require couples to declare their family details, education, source of income, profession, permanent address along with religion in a prescribed form one month before the wedding. A failure to do this will result in legal action, the Minister said.

Sarma also said that Assam’s love will be similar to the one passed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh but will have its own twist. “Our law will empower women. It will have some elements of the law in UP and MP,” Mr Sarma said.

“Love jihad” is a term used by right-wing groups to frame allegedly forceful relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women. The coinage also represents claims that Hindu women are being converted to Islam under the guise of marriage as part of a nefarious scheme.

The term hasn’t been officially acknowledged by the central government. However, several states with BJP government including Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana have been mulling to bring into effect a law against “love jihad”. 

On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel gave assent to an ordinance against forcible or “dishonest” religious conversions.

The Allahabad High Court recently said in a judgement that a person’s right to live with people of their choice, irrespective of religion, is intrinsic to personal liberty and right to life. The Constitution guarantees the fundamental right, it noted. The judgment also overturned two previous rulings that said religious conversation for the sake of marriage was not “good in law”. 

The ruling BJP’s move comes ahead of Assembly Elections in Assam next year.

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