India: A Paradise For Pakistani Hindus?

A recent New York Times piece titled "Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By" talks of "Pakistan’s dwindling Hindu minority". An earlier New York Times story in December 2019 mentioned "the pressure for (Pakistani) Hindus to weigh moving to India".  The paper also reported that "the Indian government granted 12,732 long-term visas, compared with 4,712 in 2017, and 2,298 in 2016". These stories raise two questions: 1. Is Hindu population in Pakistan declining? 2. Are Hindus moving to India better off than they were in Pakistan? Let me try to answer both of these questions.

Hindu Population in West Pakistan Source: Census Data


Hindu Population in Pakistan:

There are 8.4 million Hindus in Pakistan as of 2018, according to Pakistan Hindu Council. Hindus, including low-caste Hindus, make up 4% of Pakistan's population, a much higher percentage than 1.85% back in 1998.

Hinduism is the Fastest Growing Religion in Pakistan. Source: Pew Research


Contrary to the sensational media headlines about declining Hindu population in Pakistan, the fact is that Hindu birth rate is significantly higher than the country's national average. Although Hindus make up only 4% of Pakistan's population, it is among the worlds fastest growing Hindu communities today, growing faster than the Hindu populations in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia.


Top Countries With Hindu Populations Source: Pew Research Center

Myth of Hindu Paradise in India:

Pakistani Hindus who migrated to India number in thousands, a tiny fraction of Hindu population of over 8 million in Pakistan.  Those who were lured by the media coverage painting India as a Hindu paradise have been deeply disappointed. Many of them are low-caste Hindus who have faced discrimination by upper caste Hindus in India. They are barred from temples and assaulted for drinking from community wells.

A New York Times story featured Baghchand Bheel as a case of disappointed Pakistani Hindus who left for India hoping for a Hindu paradise. “You take these decisions sometimes out of excitement for what your life could be. Then you arrive and realize it’s much different on the ground.”

Baghchand Bheel is of a lower caste, and when he tried to enter a Hindu temple, he was barred entry by the priest because of it, he said. And when a friend tried to drink from the community water well, he was physically assaulted by upper caste Brahmins who accused him of polluting it, according to New York Times.

What Pakistani Hindus face in India today goes back to 1947. In "The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of India",  Indian author Nandita Bhavnani has written about it. Here's an excerpt:

 "Many (Pakistani) Dalits who migrated (whether at the time of partition or subsequently) faced humiliation and discrimination at the hands of caste Hindus in India after Partition. In some cases, they were taken by separate ships or trains. Tillo Jethmalani, who was subsequently posted as camp commandant at Marwar Junction, recalls how one goods train filled with Dalit refugees from Sindh arrived in the middle of Rajasthan winter night, with Dalits lying freezing and semi-conscious inside the goods wagons. Even in refugee camps in India, Dalits were given separate living quarters and dining areas, thus maintaining the status quo of ghettoization."

Contented Pakistani Hindu:

In a piece tiled "A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why" published in The Quint in December 2019, Indian writer Akhil Bakshi wrote about his meeting with Ravi Kumar, a Pakistani Hindu, in Nairobi, Kenya.  Soon after exchanging pleasantries in Hindustani, Ravi Kumar smiled and said, “Let me clarify that I am not an Indian. I am a Pakistani.”

 Here's an exchange reported by the Indian writer:

“It must be difficult for your family to live in Pakistan?” I asked a leading question.

 “On the contrary, we are extremely happy there,” he retorted, astonishing me.

 “Are you not discriminated against?”

 “Not at all! We feel like equal citizens. My family lives in Karachi and nobody has ever bothered us. We are a successful business family trading in rice.”

“But isn't the Hindu community in Pakistan generally impoverished?”

 “Not in Karachi. We are probably the most prosperous community. The entire rice trade — milling, retail and wholesale — is controlled by Hindus. They all live in great comfort. I have relocated to Benin — from where I supply rice to West Africa".

“Haven't you ever thought about relocating to India? Do you not want to free yourself of a dismal, perilous existence in Pakistan and migrate to India to seek succour of freedom and a liberal democracy?” I asked.

 He looked at me with a hard stare but replied politely:  “You are trying to put words into my mouth. Firstly, our life in Pakistan is not miserable. We are very much a part of the mainstream. I am a Pakistani at heart. Secondly, India is the last place I would like to migrate to. I have been to Bombay thrice — to source rice for West Africa — as Pakistan did not have enough surplus for export. All three times it has been a dreadful experience. Right from the time you land, you are questioned and hounded as if you are a terrorist. I had to report to the police station every day. And all that the authorities did was to pick my pockets. I spent most of my time waiting at police stations than at business meetings. I don't like the undignified way I am treated in India. Now I am on my way to source rice from Thailand — over-flying India.”

"Forced" Conversions & Marriages:

Indian media and Pakistani "liberals" go into overdrive every time there is an interfaith marriage involving a Hindu girl and a Muslim man occurs.  Pakistani Hindu activist and lawyer Kalpana Devi says that even willing conversions of Hindu girls to Islam are often labeled as "forced conversions". She says there is media hype and distortions of facts relating to such conversions. It is important to understand the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. It is not unusual for Hindu families to attempt to avoid social stigma by falsely characterizing all conversions and marriages of their daughters as "forced".

Summary:

Facts and data show that New York Times' coverage of Hindus in Pakistan is highly exaggerated. There is no truth in the NYT claim of "dwindling Hindu minority" in Pakistan. The New York Times' claims of pressure on Pakistani Hindus to migrate is highly exaggerated. No more than a few thousand among 8 million Pakistani Hindus have migrated to India. And those who have migrated have been deeply disappointed. India is no paradise for Pakistani Hindus. Conversions and marriages involving Hindu girls are often incorrectly characterized as "forced".


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

South Asian Contrast: Ayodhya & Kartarpur

Dalit Woman Elected to Pakistani Senate

Thari Hindu Women Riding High on Development Boom

Myth of Forced Conversions and Marriages in Pakistan

Caste Discrimination Rampant Among Silicon Valley Indians

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC


Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Hindu nationalism has been the bedrock of the Indian State and polity. Nehruvian secularism was the fringe

by Prof Abhinav Prakash Singh
Delhi University

https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/ayodhya-marks-the-twilight-of-the-first-republic/story-QGXeiHufgM31X5zgjeg8hP.html


The first Republic was founded on the myth of a secular-socialist India supposedly born out of the anti-colonial struggle. However, the Indian freedom movement was always a Hindu movement. From its origin, symbolism, language, and support base, it was the continuation of a Hindu resurgence already underway, but which was disrupted by the British conquest. The coming together of various pagan traditions in the Indian subcontinent under the umbrella of Hinduism is a long-drawn-out process. But it began to consolidate as a unified political entity in the colonial era in the form of Hindutva. The Hindutva concept is driven by an attempt by the older pagan traditions, united by a dharmic framework and intertwined by puranas, myths and folklore, to navigate the modern political and intellectual landscape dominated by nations and nation-states.

Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hindutva is a Hindu political response to political Islam and Western imperialism. It seeks to forge Hindus into a modern nation and create a powerful industrial State that can put an end to centuries of persecution that accelerated sharply over the past 100 years when the Hindu-Sikh presence was expunged in large swaths of the Indian subcontinent.

India’s freedom struggle was guided by the vision of Hindu nationalism and not by constitutional patriotism. The Congress brand of nationalism was but a subset of this broader Hindu nationalism with the Congress itself as the pre-eminent Hindu party. The Muslim question forced the Congress to adopt a more tempered language and symbolism later and to weave the myth of Hindu-Muslim unity. But it failed to prevent the Partition of India. The Congress was taken over by Left-leaning secular denialists under Jawaharlal Nehru who, instead of confronting reality, pretended it did not exist.

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Hindu nationalism has never been fringe; it is Nehruvian secularism that was the fringe. And with the fall of the old English-speaking elites, the system they created is also collapsing along with accompanying myths like Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb and Hindu-Muslim unity. The fact is that Hindus and Muslims lived together, but separately. And they share a violent and cataclysmic past with each other, which has never been put to rest.

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb was an urban-feudal construct with no serious takers outside a limited circle. In villages, whatever unity existed was because the caste identities of both Hindu and Muslims dominated instead of religious identities or because Hindu converts to Islam maintained earlier customs and old social links with Hindus like common gotra and caste. But all that evaporated quickly with the Islamic revivalist movements such as the Tabligh and pan-Islamism from 19th century onwards. It never takes much for Hindu-Muslim riots to erupt. There was nothing surprising about the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests and widespread riots. As political communities, Hindus and Muslims have hardly ever agreed on the big questions of the day.
-----------

What we are witnessing today is twilight of the first Republic. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is but a modern vehicle of the historical process of the rise of the Hindu rashtra. In the north, Jammu and Kashmir is fully integrated. In the south, Dravidianism is melting away. In the east, Bengal is turning saffron. In the west, secular parties must ally with a local Hindutva party to survive.
Riaz Haq said…
#India and the world were already heavily #debt-ridden when #COVID19 hit, hence there will be massive #bankruptcies in a businesses. : NYU professor emeritus Edward Altman https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/exclusive-india-and-the-world-were-already-overleveraged-when-covid-19-hit-hence-there-will-be-massive-bankruptcies-nyu-professor-emeritus-edward-altman-5691841.html

Built back in 1968 by Edward I Altman, then a professor at New York University the model is still being used across the world. It helps predict the possibility of a business going bankrupt. And that perhaps explains why Altman is considered an authority in bankruptcy prediction.
Riaz Haq said…
Analyst Muzzammil Aslam's Tweet:


Pakistan recovering quickly from Covid-19 shocks, evident from Large Scale Manufacturing up 16.81% in June 2020 from May 2020, but down 7.74% YoY. In FY20, LSM down 10.17% YoY. Given FBR exports, cements, steel, fertilisers sales recorded in July. One can expect bumper FY21!


https://twitter.com/MuzzammilAslam3/status/1293470668982489090?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
With shattered dreams, 14 #Pakistani #Hindus return home. Hoping to get citizenship in #India and for better economic prospects, disappointed Pakistani Hindus ask government to bring them back to #Pakistan #Modi #BJP #caa_nrc #minorities http://v.aa.com.tr/1969747

At least 14 members of Pakistan's Hindu minority community recently returned from India after six months, saying their dreams of better economic prospects in the neighboring country had been shattered.

Speaking to reporters at the Wagah border crossing, Kanhaya Lal and Nanak Ram, the heads of the families, said they went to India hoping for better economic prospects, but it was a “farce” and they suffered great hardships.

India recently passed a controversial law allowing Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to apply for fast-track citizenship.

Last month, a family of 11 Pakistani Hindus was found dead in a rented farmhouse in the city of Jodhpur in India’s Rajasthan state.

"I knew that family, and most of them were educated. But there are no opportunities for any outsiders in India,” Lal told Anadolu Agency.

"The fact is they were living in miserable conditions and suffered from extreme poverty and there were dangerous threats to their lives."

He said more than 28,000 Pakistan Hindus are stranded in Jodhpur waiting to return home.
Riaz Haq said…
The recent report on commission on forced conversions by Senator Anwer Kakar which comprises of minorities as well had given a report that in majority of the alleged conversion cases the girls were of legal marriageable age and they had married of their own free will. When the parents could not find a legal recourse they fed the media and certain NGOs that the girl was minor and abducted.
https://www.timesnownews.com/international/article/conversion-of-hindu-girls-cant-be-considered-forced-pak-senator/670272

He (Kakar) said the committee found out that most or all of the cases of forced conversions had some degree of willingness on the girl's part.

"What we observed is that the majority of the girls and boys had secretly decided to elope and marry. But that was because the families of the two would not accept them as life partners," he said.

Lal Chand Malhi said that the state should take the responsibility of providing shelter and security to such couples who willingly run away, change their religions willingly and get married.

"Those who run away from their homes should be provided state protection for some time so that the girl may finalise her decision," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
Under the Talpurs, Sindhi Hindus had been forbidden from owning land. That’s not to say they were not commercially active. In fact, Sindh’s Hindus had a long tradition of business success. The British imperialist Richard Burton wrote that ‘throughout Sindh the Hindu element preponderates in the cities and towns, the Moslem in the country: the former everywhere represents capital, the latter labour’.22 It was the Hindus who collected taxes, lent money and managed trade. Nevertheless, a British decision to allow Sindh’s Hindus to own land tilted things in their favour, and with many Muslims heavily indebted to Hindu financiers, some ended up losing their land to Hindu moneylenders. In 1896, a survey of villages in Sindh found that Hindus held 28 per cent of the land; fifty years earlier they had owned virtually none. The British were concerned. The Sindh commissioner Evan James complained that when Hindus obtained other people’s land through usury, the former owners were reduced to a state of abject dependence. ‘The feeling of injustice engendered by this tyranny strikes at the foundations of our rule,’ he said.23 The British worried that if the big estates were broken up, a crucial pillar of support in Sindh would be lost. Under the Sind Encumbered Estates Act a British manager could take over a bankrupt estate and declare many of its debts null and void. For the landowner there was a downside – the manager would take over ownership of the land until such time as the estate was solvent again – but once the books were balanced and the estate returned to profitability, it was given back to the landowner. Doda Khan Bhutto, sharp as well as forceful, was quick to exploit the Act. While some landowners held back, either to preserve their dignity or because they did not trust the British, Doda knew a good thing when he saw it and ensured that his estate was one of the first to be taken over. A manager, appointed in 1876, went through the books and confirmed Doda Khan was heavily in debt. Then, declaring that much of what Doda Khan owed was the result of exorbitant interest rates charged by Hindu moneylenders, the manager wrote off over half of his liabilities. At a stroke, Doda Khan’s situation was transformed. The remaining debts were dealt with by a government loan that the manager repaid from estate income over a five-year period.

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 23-24). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
Riaz Haq said…
243 #Pakistani #Hindus and #Sikhs Seeking Greener Pastures Across the Border in #India Will Return to #Pakistan. They are going back to Pakistan as they continue to face “financial hardships” in India. https://thewire.in/external-affairs/hindu-sikh-pakistani-refugees-indian-citizenship via @thewire_in

A group of 243 Pakistani nationals, including several Hindu and Sikh refugees, who have been given permission to return, will be going back to Pakistan as they continue to face “financial hardships” in India, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A batch of Pakistani Hindu and Sikh refugees living in India will go back on Thursday, “giving up on their dreams of acquiring Indian citizenship in the face of financial hardships”, The Economic Times reported.

The refugees are among 243 Pakistani nationals, including many stranded in India due to COVID-19 pandemic, who have been given permission to travel via Wagah border on Thursday.

“For the past four years, I have been running to FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) Jodhpur and home ministry in New Delhi to get visas for my wife and children. I have given up now and want to go back,” a 37-year-old refugee, Shreedhar told ET.

Another refugee, Mithoon, who was from Hyderabad city in Sindh province stated that they came to India in “search of better livelihood”. “For the past one year, we have been trying to get LTV (long term visa) but to no avail…My family is facing financial trouble due to lockdown and COVID-19. They have now decided to go back,” he said.

“Officials said applications from Pakistani refugees wishing to go back have been received mainly from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi. In some cases, harassment and corruption during field verification have come to light, adding to the woes of the refugees, said people aware of the matter,” noted the report.
Riaz Haq said…
The figures for 1998 Pakistan Hindu population of 1.3% and 1.6% are from two different sources cited in my post.

1.6% includes Dalits while 1.3% only counts caste (jati) Hindus.

The latest 2017 census shows that the Hindu population of Pakistan has now risen to 2.14% (1.73% caste Hindu and 0.41% Dalit).

https://www.pbs.gov.pk/sites/default/files//population_census/sailent_feature_%20census_2017.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan - #Fakenews about rape & conversion of a #Christian girl, & attack on a church. After the #Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in #Sukkur, but here too the police denied such an act. http://www.fides.org/en/news/70208-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Fake_news_about_the_rape_and_religious_conversion_of_a_Christian_girl_and_the_attack_on_a_church_damage_to_religious_minorities#.YLJV6lh47Mo.twitter

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - On May 24, news spread in Pakistan of the alleged kidnapping of a 14-year-old Christian girl, Sunita Masih, in Faisalabad, Punjab Province. She was supposed to have been abducted, raped and then converted to Islam by Muslim men. After the Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in Sukkur (Sindh province), but here too the police denied such an act.
Asif Munawar, Catholic human rights activist from Faisalabad told Fides: "The news about Sunita Masih is false; the photo spread on social media is that of a girl who was kidnapped three years ago. There are people who spread false news about attacks and persecutions against religious minorities. But we have to pay close attention and check carefully. Even the latest news of the attack on a church in Okara has been found to be completely false".
Father James Channan OP, Dominican Catholic priest, Director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, comments to Agenzia Fides: "We condemn the fake news that was released earlier this week about the alleged kidnapping, rape and forced conversion of a Christian girl as well as that about an alleged attack on a church in Okara. Fake news is dangerous, it is horrible, it is a trap, and it adds to the worry and trauma of religious minorities and helps fuel hatred and resentment between communities of different beliefs and is a cancerous growth factor for interfaith relationships and ruin the country's image".
Fr. Channan, who himself works closely with leading Islamic religious representatives to create peace and harmony between people of different faiths, says: "We have to act responsibly, every time we receive a message we have to verify its truthfulness. It should be noted that with the hectic and uncontrolled distribution on social media, such fake news has gone viral, creating frustration and fear among members of religious minorities. We need to be aware of the danger of artificial fabricated messages spreading on the internet and social networks". Fr. Channan points out: "We must understand, denounce and stop those who intend to create havoc by spreading false news, to support their own hidden programs or personal interests. There have been attacks on churches or attacks on members of religious minorities in Pakistan, but alarmism is harmful. We have to be able to rely on the truth and false news is counterproductive and, above all, harms the minorities themselves". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2021)

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Hindus in #India are broke, jobless and hungry. They want to go back to #Pakistan. They came to India looking for a better life, but today they have no means to support themselves. #BJP #Modi #Hindutva #propaganda --- Times of India https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/broke-jobless-and-hungry-why-pakistani-hindus-are-leaving-india/articleshow/83404001.cms
Riaz Haq said…
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – For more than a week now, a section of the minority Sikh community in Indian-administered Kashmir has been protesting against what they call the “forced conversion” of two women who married Muslim men – a claim denied by police officials and the men’s families who say the unions are interfaith marriages.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/1/interfaith-marriages-trigger-controversy-between-muslims-sikhs

Manmeet Kaur, a 19-year-old Sikh woman, and her 29-year-old partner Shahid Nazir Bhat, both residents of the Muslim-majority region’s main city of Srinagar, fled their homes on June 21, according to their families and the police.


Police officials told Al Jazeera the couple turned themselves in on June 24 and have been detained in different police stations in Srinagar.

Two days later, Manmeet gave her statement to a judge in a Srinagar court, denying her family’s allegation that Bhat kidnapped her.

Officials said the two married in an Islamic ceremony held in secret after Manmeet converted and changed her name to Zoya.


As she was giving her statement before the judge, scores of Sikh community members, along with Manmeet’s parents, gathered outside the court premises, demanding that she be handed over to the family.

That evening, Manmeet was handed over to her parents by the police, while Bhat remains in custody.

The next day, June 27, hundreds of Sikhs gathered in Srinagar, alleging that two women from the community had been “forcefully converted” to Islam, triggering tensions in a region where Sikhs and Muslims have been living in harmony for centuries.

Making up about 2 percent of the population in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Sikhs are a significant minority who did not leave the restive region despite decades of armed rebellion against the Indian rule.

Most Sikhs live in villages in Kashmir’s volatile south and north, where the conflict is most intense.


‘In love for 15 years’
The other Sikh woman at the centre of the ongoing storm is 29-year-old Danmeet Kour, who has been in love with her high school classmate, a 30-year-old Muslim named Muzaffar Shaban for 15 years now.



In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Danmeet said she married Shaban in June 2014.

“I had converted to Islam in 2012, two years before I married my boyfriend. It was the wish of both of us, no one forced me. It was my decision because the Indian constitution grants me this right to choose my partner,” she told Al Jazeera.

Danmeet, who has a master’s degree in political science, said she left home on June 6 to live with Shaban, telling her family not to look for her as she was now going to live with her husband.

But her family went to the police and the couple was traced within two hours, she said. Shaban was arrested on kidnapping charges and Danmeet handed over to her parents.


Danmeet said her family took her to Punjab, the Sikh-majority state in India’s west, where she alleged that “multiple groups met her and tried to influence her decision and forced her to give a statement against her husband”.


“I received death threats. But I told those folks in Punjab, my family and everyone else that I will only record my statement before a judge in the court,” Danmeet told Al Jazeera.

For nearly a month now, Shaban has been in a jail in Srinagar.

After her return from Punjab, Danmeet was presented to a local court on June 26 where she gave a statement saying her family had falsely charged her husband with kidnapping and she should be provided police protection.

“I just want to live with my in-laws and did not want to go back to my parents,” she told the court.
Riaz Haq said…
In #Pakistan, #Muslim men marrying #Hindu girls are often accused of kidnapping, forced conversion/marriage. Now in #Kashmir, a #Sikh woman says she married for love but her parents call It coercion. #BJP #Hindutva want to totally outlaw all such marriages https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/world/india-interfaith-marriage.html

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Manmeet Kour Bali had to defend her marriage in court.

A Sikh by birth, Ms. Bali converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Her parents objected to a marriage outside their community and filed a police complaint against her new husband.

In court last month, she testified that she had married for love, not because she was coerced, according to a copy of her statement reviewed by The New York Times. Days later, she ended up in India’s capital of New Delhi, married to a Sikh man.

Religious diversity has defined India for centuries, recognized and protected in the country’s Constitution. But interfaith unions remain rare, taboo and increasingly illegal.

A spate of new laws across India, in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., are seeking to banish such unions altogether.

While the rules apply broadly, right-wing supporters in the party portray such laws as necessary to curb “love jihad,” the idea that Muslim men marry women of other faiths to spread Islam. Critics contend that such laws fan anti-Muslim sentiment under a government promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda.

Last year, lawmakers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh passed legislation that makes religious conversion by marriage an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, 162 people there have been arrested under the new law, although few have been convicted.

“The government is taking a decision that we will take tough measures to curb love jihad,” Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk and the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh, said shortly before that state’s Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance was passed.

Four other states ruled by the B.J.P. have either passed or introduced similar legislation.

In Kashmir, where Ms. Bali and Mr. Bhat lived, members of the Sikh community have disputed the legitimacy of the marriage, calling it “love jihad.” They are pushing for similar anti-conversion rules.

While proponents of such laws say they are meant to protect vulnerable women from predatory men, experts say they strip women of their agency.

“It is a fundamental right that women can marry by their own choice,” said Renu Mishra, a lawyer and women’s rights activist in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.

“Generally the government and the police officials have the same mind-set of patriarchy,” she added. “Actually, they are not implementing the law, they are only implementing their mind-set.”

Across the country, vigilante groups have created a vast network of local informers, who tip off the police to planned interfaith marriages.

One of the largest is Bajrang Dal, or the Brigade of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The group has filed dozens of police complaints against Muslim suitors or grooms, according to Rakesh Verma, a member in Lucknow.

“The root cause of this disease is the same everywhere,” Mr. Verma said. “They want to lure Hindu women and then change their religion.”

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