Soutik Biswas
India correspondent

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Every year, some 1,000 interfaith couples get in touch with a Delhi-based support group and seek help.

Hindu and Muslim couples usually approach Dhanak when their families deny them permission to marry. Aged between 20-30 years, the harried men and women want the group to talk to their families or help them seek legal assistance.

Among the couples who come to Dhanak, 52% are Hindu women planning to marry Muslim men; and 42% are Muslim women planning to marry Hindu men

"Both Hindu and Muslim families in India fiercely oppose interfaith marriages," Asif Iqbal, founder of Dhanak, told me.

"They will stoop to any level to stop them. Parents even smear the reputation of their daughters to dissuade her lover's family. The so-called 'love-jihad' is another weapon to discourage such relationships."

The bogey of "love-jihad", a term radical Hindu groups coined to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage, has returned to haunt India's interfaith relationships.

Last week, police in northern Uttar Pradesh state held a Muslim man for allegedly trying to convert a Hindu woman to Islam – he was the first to be arrested under a new anti-conversion law that targets love-jihad. At least four other states ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are planning similar laws. Party spokespeople say such laws are required to stop "deception, fraud and misrepresentation".

"When a Hindu man marries a Muslim woman, it is always portrayed as romance and love by Hindu organisations, while when the reverse happens it is depicted as coercion," says Charu Gupta, a historian at University of Delhi, who has researched the "myth of love jihad" .