Bhopal: The State Assembly on Monday passed ‘Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2021’ that penalizes religious conversion through marriage or any other fraudulent means and provides for a prison sentence of up to 10 years. It replaced an ordinance promulgated by the BJP government on January 9. While Home minister Narottam Mishra termed it ‘Empowerment to Women’ on International Women’s Day, the Congress saw it an instrument of suppression of ‘minority’. After BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, Madhya Pradesh has become the third state to enforce a similar law against ‘Love Jihad’.
Replying to the debate before the Bill was passed, Home Minister Mishra said that under the earlier 1968 Act, there was no provision of annulling marriages, and conversion was a bailable offences with maximum sentence of two years. The minister further said government would not tolerate "Rafiq becoming Ravi" for "Love Jihad". The government was not "averse to love but is against Jihad", said the home minister. The minister blamed Congress for instilling fear among minorities and creating confusion over the Bill. The Congress objected to the Bill, just as it had opposed in Parliament the Citizenship Amendment Act, the law banning triple talaq and abolition of Article 370, said Mishra. Congress had misled people over CAA saying that they will have to show the domicile papers of three generations or else will be thrown out of the country, said Mishra.
Supporting the Bill, BJP MLA, Sitasharan Sharma cited a judgement of Kerala High Court, wherein it had stated that marriages are being done fraudulently, forcibly or by tempting someone for religious conversion.