Two days after they stopped a wedding ceremony and took a couple from eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar to a police station for “questioning”, UP Police has said they did not break the law and were merely acting to verify information about a criminal offence under the state’s new stringent unlawful conversion law.
On Tuesday evening, cops in Kushinagar, 325 km from state capital Lucknow, stopped the marriage of a 39-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman, both Muslims, and took them to a police station where they were reportedly questioned all night over the marriage.
“A person from the village informed us that a woman was being forcibly married in the village and that she was Hindu and the other side was Muslim. The police went to the spot and brought everyone to the police station for questioning. We then found out that the woman was from the neighbouring Azamgarh district and that she was also Muslim and that the man was marrying her. When we got more details, we contacted the woman’s family and handed her over to them . A missing persons report about the woman had been filed earlier,” Vinod Kumar Singh, Kushinagar’s police chief, told the media.
Reports say the couple was allowed to leave the police station only on Wednesday morning . The police also issued a statement on Twitter over allegations that the man was assaulted inside the police station . “The allegation is false. On receipt of the complaint, the accused were brought to the police station by the police, where the information about the missing girl was apprised in the concerned district of Azamgarh and she was handed over to her family members. There was no violation of human rights, ” the police said.
When asked whether this was not a blatant misuse of the new law in the state against unlawful conversion that is only applicable if a person is converting solely for the purpose of marriage, the district police chief claimed it wasn’t so. “It is not a misuse of the law. We got information that something wrong was happening. But when we found there was no criminal activity involved, we let everyone go. The woman was a major and there was a missing person’s report registered,” Kushinagar police chief Vinod Kumar Singh said in a statement.
Uttar Pradesh, which has a significant 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 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.