New Delhi: On 13 December 2022, the women and child welfare department of the Maharashtra government passed a resolution to set up a 13-member ‘Inter-caste/Inter-faith Marriage—Family Coordination Committee’.

The committee is tasked with obtaining “detailed information” of couples in inter-caste or inter-faith unions, contacting the newly married women and finding out if they were in touch with their families.

The committee will track registered marriages, marriages performed at places of worship and even those where couples eloped. If the committee finds that a woman is estranged by her family after marriage, it would attempt to reconcile her with parents and “settle disputes” between them.

According to Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) member of legislative assembly (MLA) and Maharashtra’s minister of women and child welfare, this decision was taken in light of the murder of Shraddha Walkar, cut into many pieces, allegedly by her partner Aaftab Poonawala in Delhi.

“We don’t want a case like Shraddha Walkar repeated and thus this committee has been formed, which will help in reconnecting families with women who have married into different faiths or castes against their wishes,” said Lodha.

The move to monitor such unions drew widespread criticism (here and here), and within a day of passing the resolution, the Maharashtra government amended it, dropping inter-caste marriages from the committee’s purview.

“The committee is only for inter-faith marriages, and not inter-caste marriages,” said deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “The earlier GR (government resolution) was not the correct one.”

Even as the country’s top court hails inter-faith and inter-caste marriages as “the way forward” for society, the resolution creates room for inter-faith marriages to be looked upon with suspicion.

Contradictory Clarifications

That the resolution lacked any careful consideration by the state government to begin with is evident from the clarifications that followed.

To back his claim, Fadnavis clarified that the state government encouraged inter-caste marriages and planned to financially reward inter-faith couples.

“It is alarming that there has been an increase in cases of cheating in inter-faith marriages in some parts of the state,” said Fadnavis. “Therefore, fraud in the name of ‘love jihad’ has to be stopped”.

He was referring to a persistent—and by the union government’s own clarification, fake, as Article 14 has previously reported—narrative promoted by Hindu right-wing organisations and Fadnavis’ and India’s ruling party.

Lodha later contradicted Fadnavis claiming that the committee to track inter-faith marriages was not about tracing ‘love jihad’.

“It’s only to help those girls who have gone against the wishes of their original family,” said Lodha. “We want to protect them, we want them to communicate with their original family. That’s all.”

Another BJP MLA, Ram Kadam, added to the confusion. “Comprehensive attempts are needed to stop ‘love jihad’,” said Kadam. “And this (government resolution) is just the first step”.

It was clear the government itself was unclear about the resolution or the committee’s task. As per statements made by the state government’s own representatives it is either: (i) to help “estranged” women or (ii) trace cases of ‘love jihad’.

Our analysis shows that whichever of these two objectives the resolution sets out to achieve, it is illegal, unconstitutional, even irrational and likely a political move in the run-up to local body elections in Maharashtra.

The Irrationality Of The Rationale

In acknowledging that the State wishes to encourage inter-caste marriages and by dropping such unions from the purview of the committee, the government has made a discreet admission—that it does indeed intend to track inter-faith marriages, not encourage them, and view them with suspicion.

This story was originally published in . Read the full story here