The new anti-conversion bill tabled during the winter session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly was not useful to any community and only served to damage "certain parts" of society said former Karanataka Chief Minister M. Kumaraswamy to media on Tuesday. He added that his Janata Dal (S) party would oppose the bill.
"We are going to oppose the anti-conversion bill. By presenting this bill in the House, it will not be useful to anybody. According to me, the government's responsibility is to look after the down-trodden people," Kumaraswamy said, according to news agency ANI.
On Tuesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Karnataka government tabled the 'Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021' in the ongoing winter session of the state assembly, prompting strong criticism from the opposition Congress party.
Congress leaders staged a dramatic walkout from the assembly after the bill was introduced, with a copy of the bill torn up by state unit chief D.K Shivakumar. Leader of the Opposition Siddharamaiah stated that Congress would not allow such a draconian law to be passed and that it would oppose it stringently.
The anti-conversion bill provides for the protection of the right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means. The violators will face up to 3-10 years of jail time and a fine of ₹1,00,000.
The bill was presented in Belagavi at a time when a string of attacks against the local Christian community has been reported for the last few months. According to local churches, the police had asked them not to worship in public halls but instead in private areas to avoid being attacked by RW extremists.
On November 12, a delegation of Hindu seers met with Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who promised to enact the anti-conversion bill to safeguard the culture of the state. BJP MLA Gulihatti Shekhar had earlier claimed his own mother was duped into converting to Christianity and that widespread mass conversions were taking place amongst poor Hindus.
A survey conducted by the Karnataka government in two villages of Hosadurga Taluk in Chitradurga district where mass conversions allegedly took place found no clear evidence of the same. In addition to this, most people had converted of their own free will and the minority that did convert often 're-converted' back to their original religion.