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The war against religious conversions
camera_altThe scene of attack on the school in Madhya Pradesh on allegations of religious conversion

A group of assailants stormed a Christian missionary school in Madhya Pradesh's Vidisha district on Monday while students were writing the CBSE Class XII examination. They vandalised the building and furniture, accusing the institution of forcing children to convert to Christianity. The school manager has revealed that the attack came after a letter was circulated claiming that eight students from the school had been converted. Although the letter names the eight Hindu students who have been converted, manager Brother Anthony explains that none of them are students in his school. This is not an isolated incident. Even before extremist Hindutva forces came to power, accusations were prevalent that Hindus were being converted to Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, there was a demand for a nationwide ban on conversion. One of the things Narendra Modi did immediately after coming to power was to explore the possibility of legislation on the subject. But in 2015, the Union Law Ministry informed the Modi government that it was not possible. The ministry informed that the Supreme Court had ruled in 1977 that the anti-conversion law would come under the purview of the state governments. It was following this that no bills pertaining to the matter were put forth in the parliament. But that was not enough to leave the sangh parivar quiet; this is one of their major agendas.The freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution is not an obstacle for the Sangh. In April 2021, a bench comprising Justice Rohington Nariman dismissed a petition filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwani Upadhyay seeking directions to the states to enact special legislation to curb religious conversion and witchcraft through threats and temptations. The Supreme Court pointed out that it does not understand why the right to practice one's religion is restricted to those over 18, and reminded that a citizen has the right to propagate his religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.

However, in effect, legislation restricting the conversion of Hindus took place in the states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan; in Rajasthan, it was repealed later. Though only religious conversion through inducement, force or threat is banned in these states, those who voluntarily convert are being sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on fictitious charges. In UP, 49 of the accused in 51 cases were lodged in Vera Jail in December last year. None of them is known to have been released. The reason is obvious. The defendants must prove in court that they were not forced to convert! According to the law, the arrested police do not have to produce any evidence.The BJP government in Karnataka is currently in the process of enacting legislation along the same lines to curb conversion. Even ahead of this, the Veershaiva Mahasabha of the Lingayats, the dominant community in the state, is agitating against conversion. And the one taking that initiative is senior Congress MLA Shamanur Sivasankarappa! The BJP, led by Basavaraj Bommai, is all set to introduce a bill banning conversion in the state. And it is at this stage that the Congress is overtaking them.

This should be read in the context of the intensification of organized attacks on Christian churches and institutions in Karnataka during the months of October-November. It is noteworthy that the United Christian Forum and the APCR (Association for Protection of Civil Rights) have revealed that Karnataka now ranks third in the number of attacks on Christians and churches. And what of the picture that stands out on the other side? Syed Waseem Rizvi, who had to step down from the helm of the UP Shia Waqf Board due to scams running into crores, is celebrating his conversion to Hinduism.The answer must be that is not a conversion, but ghar wapsi. The war on religious conversion is also part of the central and state BJP governments' complete failure to use their power for the good of the country or for the solution of the people's problems or for the eradication of poverty. They are attempting to divert attention from these failures to such sensitive issues. Had they done anything to end the curse of casteism and discrimination, which compel the Dalits of the majority community to resort to religious conversion, the noise about religious conversion would have become redundant.

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TAGS:Anti-conversion violence Madhya Pradesh Christian school law against conversions SC verdicts against central law 
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