‘Legalise child marriages’: BJP MLA Gopal Parmar’s solution to end ‘love jihad’ harks back to 19th Century

Instances of ‘love jihad’ occur because people wander when they aren’t hitched “on time”, BJP MLA Gopal Parmar from Madhya Pradesh has said.

At a function in his constituency Agar Malwa, MLA Gopal Parmar claimed on Saturday that elopement and ‘love jihad’-like incidents emerged after the government made 18 the legal age for girls to get married. “Generally, our women are trapped easily with sweet talk and gestures… I urge mothers to alert their daughters about ‘love jihad’,” Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.

‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by fringe groups to describe forced conversions from Hinduism to Islam after interfaith marriages.

Parmar also claimed that divorces were rare when child marriages took place. “The groom and bride used to be unfamiliar with each other, but marriages would work because parents used to apply their mind and fix marriages between compatible children,’’ Parmar was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. The lawmaker added that he would write to the government recommending the lowering of legal age for marriage.

Later elaborating on his comments, Parmar told ANI, “Earlier, people in villages would get their children married off at an early age. This would secure the mentality of those getting married. Today if a person does not get married on time, his/her mind starts wandering, resulting in incidents like ‘love jihad’.”

Parmar’s remarks come against the backdrop of the controversial case of conversion and marriage of a Kerala-based woman named Hadiya. In March, the Supreme Court restored the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan after the Kerala High Court had annulled their marriage on the complaint of Hadiya’s father.