A group of former judges, civil servants and veterans on Monday, January 4, defended the 'anti-conversion' law ("love jihad" law), introduced by the Uttar Pradesh government.
In a statement signed by 224 persons, including those from academia, it was claimed that the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, applies to everyone and 'safeguards the dignity of women'.
They slammed the critics for terming it illegal and anti-Muslim. Their statement also alleged that it is a "shocking obsession of this biased group to stoke communal fire by instigating the religious minorities."
The signatories to the statement include former UP chief secretary Yogendra Narain, former Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, former Haryana chief secretary Dharam Vir, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, former ambassador Lakshmi Puri and former Maharashtra DGP Praveen Dixit.
The statement comes after 104 retired civil servants wrote to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh criticising the law and demanded that the "illegal ordinance be withdrawn forthwith". They had also alleged that the law seeks to victimise Mulsim men and asked to repeal it.
Countering the 104 bureaucrats' letter, the Monday's statement said ''Ganga-Jamuni'' culture, a colloquial term for peaceful interfaith existence, does not stand for unlawful conversions with criminal intent, leading to murders, mutilation, torture and betrayal of women in particular.
"We strongly believe in a secular India with harmonious coexistence of people of all faiths, and consider unlawful conversions with a wrongful intent and questionable means a threat to communal harmony," the statement added.
The signatories also said the former civil servants, who criticised the law, should have kept in mind that even prior to India's independence, princely states, including Kota, Patna, Surguja, Udaipur, and Kalahandi, had passed laws regarding religious conversions.
They alleged that the critics had lost the sight of a large number of incidents where many women have been "brutally murdered" in the course of inter-faith marriages and conversions.