By Arun Dev
A 23-year-old Muslim man was beaten up and stabbed by a group of men, believed to be right-wing activists, for travelling with a Hindu woman in a bus in coastal Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district on Thursday, police officials said on Friday.
The victim, identified as Anwar Mohammed by police, has been admitted to the intensive care unit at a private hospital in Mangaluru. His condition is said to be serious.
Thursday’s incident comes at a time several states in the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, have introduced laws regulating inter-faith marriages, deemed by right-wing activists as “love jihad”.
According to police, the man and the woman (23), who knew each other from school, were travelling in an overnight bus from Mangaluru to Bengaluru when the group of men stopped the bus and attacked the man. It wasn’t immediately clear how the group knew that the two were on the bus.
The woman, whose identity was not released by the police, was also attacked and suffered minor injuries.
“Around 9pm, they stopped the bus near Pumpwell Circle in Mangaluru. They initially questioned [the man and the woman] why they were travelling together and later stabbed the man with a sharp object,” said Mangaluru police commissioner Shashi Kumar.
The officer added that Mohammad was accompanying the woman as she had applied for a job in Bengaluru and hadn’t been to the city before.
An FIR has been registered for attempt to murder (IPC section 307) among other sections at the Kankanady police station in Mangaluru. No arrests have been made so far. Police officials at the station said they are questioning some suspects in the case, but that the perpetrators have not been identified.
Since the attack on Thursday, a WhatsApp message doing the rounds claims Bajrang Dal activists stopped the duo from travelling. “Ongoing Operation by Bajrang Dal Today (Thursday). A Hindu young woman who was fleeing with a Muslim man was travelling from Mangaluru to Bengaluru. Bajrang Dal activists stopped the couple near Pumpwell,” read a message.
SharanPumpwell, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) divisional secretary, too claimed on Friday that the group’s men intercepted the couple because it was a case of “love jihad”, but that a mob gathered and turned violent. “We were trying to save the girl from love jihad. But after the mob gathered and turned violent. Police are investigating the case,” he added.
Police said that they are investigating the VHP leader’s claim and the authenticity of the message.
On Thursday, Gujarat became the latest Bharatiya Janata Party-led state to pass a Bill proposing amendments to the Freedom of Religion Act, 2002 to ensure stringent punishment for forced religious conversions.
Last month, the UP Assembly passed the Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021 by a voice vote. In March, the MP Assembly passed the MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020 to prohibit forcible religious conversion by way of allurement, fraud, threat or marriage. Haryana and Karnataka, too, are considering a similar law.
While state governments claim their move is aimed at curbing cases of “love jihad”, where Muslim men allegedly lure and marry women from other religions to convert them, the Union government told Parliament in February 2020 that the term “love jihad” was not defined under any laws and no such case had been reported.
Petitions have also been filed in the Supreme Court against the legislations, that petitioners say, can be misused to falsely implicate couples belonging to different faiths who marry out of their free will.
This story first appeared on hindustantimes.com