By Saurabh Sharma
LUCKNOW, December 30 (Reuters) – More than 100 senior officials and retired diplomats have urged the Hindu nationalist leader of the state of Uttar Pradesh to repeal a new law criminalizing the forced religious conversion of wives, warning in an open letter that this risked fueling community tensions.
Although no religion is specified in the legislation, critics say it targets the country’s Muslim minority. Die-hard Hindu groups have accused Muslim men of leading a campaign, dubbed “Love Jihad,” to lure Hindu women to Islam by promising them to marry.
Uttar Pradesh (UP), a northern state controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party and the most populous in the country, passed a law last month against pressure on wives to change their position. faith or to offer financial rewards to converts. The BJP-controlled government in neighboring Madhya Pradesh is preparing to follow suit. can only pose a greater threat to the nation than turning its own citizens against each other, a conflict that can only serve the enemies of the country, ”the former bureaucrats wrote in the letter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, a hot Hindu monk and rising star of BJP.
The vigilantes of Hindu groups intimidated and harassed Indians, especially Muslim men, and “acted as a power for themselves,” said former bureaucrats from various federal departments, states, government agencies and foreign missions.
“What’s worse is that your law enforcement apparatus, with the active support of your government, is playing a role reminiscent of the secret police in authoritarian regimes,” they said in a letter dated December 29.
Thirty Muslim men were arrested in Uttar Pradesh under the new law earlier this month, and could face prison terms if found guilty. former bureaucrats, many of whom were well-known public figures, said the state government should withdraw the “illegal” order, compensate victims and hold wandering police to account.
Mrityunjay Kumar, an Adityanath adviser told Reuters that the government had yet to receive a letter and called it a “publicity stunt”.
“It is an open letter and therefore it has been placed in the public domain,” said Wajahat Habibullah, former chief information commissioner of India and one of the signatories.
“The main aim is to make the public aware of the illegality of the measures taken by the UP government,” he said.
(Additional reporting and writing by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)