"Love Jihad" is a social evil and a law is necessary to tackle it, the Karnataka government said today, revealing that it is consulting experts on the subject. Karnataka is the latest to consider such a law after other BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announced that his government would "take stern measures towards ending" what he called young girls being lured with money or love.
"We have seen many reports in newspapers and in the electronic media about conversions due to love jihad. I discussed this with officials before coming here. I don't know about other states - but in Karnataka we are going to end this. The luring of young girls with the use of money or love is something we are taking seriously. We will take stern measures towards ending this," Mr Yediyurappa said.
Earlier, his home minister Basavaraj Bommai had called it a "social evil" that must be tackled using law.
"This love jihad has been there for some time and it is a social evil. A law is necessary - that has been the loud thinking of various sections of society in all states," Mr Bommai said.
"We are looking at what steps we are going to take and we are consulting our law experts also. Based on those decisions, we would also like to have some protection ...this inducement of youngsters into love jihad and then conversion," said the home minister.
"Love jihad" is a pejorative used by right-wing groups to target relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, which, they say, is a ruse to forcibly convert the women.
It is a term not officially recognized by the central government. In February this year, the Home Ministry had told parliament that: "Love Jihad is not defined in law" and no such case had been reported by central agencies.
"Article 25 of the constitution provides for the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. Various courts have upheld this view including the Kerala High Court. The term 'love jihad' is not defined under the extant laws," Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had said in the Lok Sabha.
Before the Karnataka Chief Minister made it official, a senior BJP leader in the state, CT Ravi, had indicated in a tweet that the state could bring law banning religious conversion for the purpose of marriage.
"On lines of Allahabad High Court's order, Karnataka will enact a law banning religious conversions for the sake of marriage... Anyone involved in the act of conversion shall face severe and swift punishment (sic)," he said in a tweet that referred to Muslim men as "jihadis".
The Allahabad High Court had ruled on October 31 that religious conversion for the purpose of marriage is illegal. The court delivered the order while dismissing the petition of an interfaith couple in Uttar Pradesh asking that the police and the woman's father be directed not to harass them. The couple had married in July.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, referring to the order, invoked a Hindu funeral chant to warn people against it, saying: "Love jihadis will say Ram Naam Satya Hai". Haryana and Madhya Pradesh also said they would explore the possibility of bringing laws to check such conversions.