Madhya Pradesh: 25-year-old Bhopal man arrested under new anti-conversion law

Madhya Pradesh police have arrested a 25-year-old mechanic in Bhopal under a new law in the state that penalises religious conversions through fraudulent means, after a woman lodged a complaint against him, officials said on Thursday.

In her complaint, the victim, a 23-year-old engineering student, accused the man of repeatedly raping her and bullying her besides threatening her to change her faith to marry him, they said.

This is the second case registered in the state under the new law.

Earlier this month, the state government promulgated the Freedom of Religion-2020 ordinance, which provides for 10 years in jail in some cases.

"The accused, Asad Khan, was on Wednesday arrested and charged under seven IPC sections, including 376 (2) (n) (repeated rape), 354 (stalking), 294 (obscene act) and 506 (criminal intimidation) and attempts to change religion by allurement and threat under the MP Religious Freedom Ordinance 2020," Ashoka Garden police station inspector Alok Shrivastava said.

Police said that the woman hailed from MP's Balaghat district and befriended the accused in 2019 while using a public transport system. He told her that he was a mechanical engineer.

The accused told the woman that his name was Ashu and he was a Hindu, Shrivastava said.

In December 2019, he took the woman to his place in Bhopal's Ashoka Garden area and raped her there, he added.

"On March 19, 2020, he took her to adjoining Raisen district on his birthday. He ventured out of the hotel, where they were staying, saying that he will return in five minutes after meeting a friend," Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Rajesh Bhadoria said.

The woman, meanwhile, stepped out for a morning walk and found him coming out of a nearby mosque wearing a skull cap. On finding him there, she accused him of cheating, he said.

Shrivastava said that after the incident, the woman parted ways with him and returned home in Balaghat during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

In October, the accused started stalking her and when she objected, he thrashed her, he said.

On January 11, he followed the woman and asked her to change her faith in order to marry him. Khan also threatened to kill her if she did not marry him, Shrivastava added.

On Tuesday, the accused posted his picture with the woman on social media. The next day, the victim, along with her two acquaintances, came to the police station to lodge a complaint, he said.

Meanwhile, BJP district working committee member Sanjay Mishra claimed that he went to the police station to get the FIR registered in this case.

"The other party could not mount pressure on the police as we were there," he said.

Shrivastava, however, said, "No Sanjay Mishra came to the police station. The victim came there along with her woman friend and the friend's brother."

On January 17, the first case under the new anti conversion law was registered in Barwani district on the complaint of a 22-year-old woman. The accused in that case was a married man who already has a child.

The MP Dharma Swatantrya Adhyadesh (Religious Freedom Ordinance) 2020 came into force on January 9. It provides for a punishment of one to ten years in cases of conversion through forced or fraudulent marriage by hiding one's original religious identity.

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