Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday served yet another warning against "Love Jihad", the right-wing conspiracy theory that Muslim men try to seduce Hindu women to have them convert their religion, as the state prepares to pass a controversial law that has stoked concerns of fanning discord and intolerance.
"Government belongs to everyone, all religions and castes. There is no discrimination but if someone tries to do anything disgusting with our daughters, then I'll break you. If someone plots religious conversion or does anything like 'Love Jihad', you will be destroyed," Mr Chouhan was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The warning comes days after the state drew up a draft bill to punish "Love Jihad", which provides for a 10-year jail term for people marrying with the aim of religious conversion.
The religious clerics solemnizing such a marriage would have to face jail too, for them the term is five years, state minister Narottam Mishra told had reporters last week after chairing a meeting where the draft of the Dharma Swatantrata Bill 2020 was finalised.
For voluntary conversion for marriage, it will be mandatory to apply to the collector a month in advance, the minister said. The guardians can complain in such cases and anyone facilitating such marriages will be considered an accused and be penalized, the minister said. For institutions which organise such an activity, their registration will be cancelled.
Asked if the government will make the law more stringent, the minister responded in the affirmative.
The term "love jihad is not defined by law", the Union Home Ministry had told parliament in February, adding that no such case had been reported by the central agencies.
But since last month, several BJP-ruled states have been talking of introducing a similar law. The list includes Haryana and Karnataka. Bihar should also follow suit, union minister Giriraj Singh has said.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a chunk of Muslim population, has been first off the block with an Ordinance or executive order, which says religious conversions that use falsehood, force or an incentive, or take place solely for the purpose of marriage will be declared a crime.
Those who plan to convert after marriage will have to give two months' notice to the district magistrate. The person converting will have to prove that it was not forced or for marriage. All cases will be non-bailable.
The ordinance came weeks after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cited an Allahabad High Court order to invoke "Ram naam satya" - a Hindu funeral chant - to issue a thinly-veiled threat to "those who... play with our sisters' respect".
Hours before the ordinance was passed, the Allahabad High Court cancelled a case against a man in an inter-faith marriage, saying "Interference in a personal relationship would constitute a serious encroachment into the right to freedom of choice of the two individuals".