The Uttar Pradesh police have formed a nine-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe cases of interfaith marriages in Kanpur, inspector general Mohit Agarwal said. Agarwal said the SIT has been given 10 days to complete the probe after a woman’s family claimed she was a victim of ‘love jihad’.

Radical Hindu groups have popularised the term ‘love jihad’, which they use to describe what they believe is an organised conspiracy of Muslim men to trick Hindu women into marriages. In February, junior home minister G Kishan Reddy told Parliament the term ‘love jihad’ is not defined under the laws and no such case has been reported by any central agency.

The SIT probe has been ordered even as the women recorded her statement in Delhi’s Tis Hazari court, saying she married a Muslim on her own volition. The case fell flat but the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) joined the family in staging a demonstration in Kidwai Nagar alleging a pattern in five interfaith marriages. As of now, the SIT has 15 such cases to look into.

“There is a new case every day; the investigation clearly cannot be completed in 10 days. It will need more time,” said Kanpur (South) police superintendent Deepak Bhuker.

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Circle officer Vikas Pandey will lead the SIT and look into the 15 cases of interreligious marriage. “The investigation entails collecting information on couples, recording the statements of their family members, checking call records of Muslim youths, their bank account statements,” said Pandey.

Agarwal said apart from tracing any links between the Muslims involved in such cases, the probe team would explore the conspiracy part and look if they were getting overseas funding. He added a group of people recently met him seeking this probe.

The SIT is collecting details from the police stations from where the cases were reported. It is also gathering information on where and how these couples met, did the Muslim men hide their real identities, and were any middlemen involved. The team is also collecting details of friends and relatives of the Muslim men.

The SIT is also pursuing the case of a man who faked his identity and allegedly abused a minor after renting a room in her house.

Station house officer Kunj Bihari Mishra said the man has been arrested on charges of rape. Police said they have recovered two Aadhaar cards, one in his original name and the other based on the fake identity, from him. The girl, in her statement before a local court, has maintained she was duped.

Deen Dayal Gaur, a local VHP functionary, said they met Agarwal and sought the probe because they felt these cases were not merely about love but more sinister. “They are a result of a well-hatched conspiracy to target the Hindu girls; most of them are minor as per our inputs,” he said.

“We demand a comprehensive probe to expose this conspiracy and funding from overseas. Love does not see caste and religion but as it is turning out there is a pattern, which would lead to communal disharmony.”