Opposition attacks govt move to issue anti-conversion ordinance

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BJP stands in  support of  the decision

The Karnataka government’s decision to have an ordinance issued to ban religious conversions has drawn the ire of the opposition and received support from the BJP.

Congress member and lawyer Brijesh Kalappa said: “They seem to be targeting the Christian community. As per my knowledge, the Christian community’s population has been decreased in the past few years. How are they converting then? The law doesn’t make any sense. The basis for it is skewed.”

He accused the BJP of playing a communal card. “The azaan, halal and hijab issues, and now the anti-conversion Bill, are all examples of how the minority communities are targeted in the state.”

The Bill was passed by the legislative assembly during in the Belagavi session in December 2021, but the BJP did not have a majority in the legislative council.

N. Chidambaram, a journalist and CPI member, noted: “The BJP is not sure of 2024 and somehow wants to come to power. The communal angle will get them all Hindu votes. BJP just wants ‘Hindu Rashtra’.”

Faith and religion are personal matters. “Why is the government interfering in someone’s personal matter? If two people fall in love, they don’t see religion. Now, they have to prove their love.”
About the halal and hijab issues, he said: “Who are they (government) to say what one should do, eat or wear?” 

About the timing of the ordinance, he said: “They want to divert the people’s attention from the actual issues like the flawed education system and healthcare system, and corruption in their own party.”

The decision to have the governor promulgate an ordinance found a supporter in BJP spokesman M.G. Mahesh.

“In the past decades, some elements of society are forcefully converting people. They say it is in the name of humanity, but they just want to change the demography of our country. Forced conversions should be stopped.” It is for the good of vulnerable sections of society.

For its part, the Karnataka Christian Social Welfare Association will submit a memorandum against the proposed ordinance to the chief minister and ministers.

Harry D’Souza, president of association, informed The Observer: “The memorandum will contain modifications to the anti-conversion Bill. The community will welcome any decision by the government provided they discuss it with us first.”

About the allegation that Christians convert Hindus, he said: “As per government records and census reports, the Christian population in the state was 4.5 per cent which has reduced to 2.5 per cent. If the allegation were true, the number should have increased. They have no record of conversions.”

It’s right, say some lawyers 

Sanket Garud, a lawyer, explained: “A Bill becomes an Act when it is passed by the state legislature. But in order to become an Act, it needs to be passed by the legislative assembly and council.”

About what is happening in the state, he said: “The BJP has brought out an ordinance through the governor. This means that the Bill becomes an Act without being passed by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.”

Garud thinks the intent of the Act is not bad. “Conversions on the basis of only marriage is not something which the courts have encouraged.”

About the punishments provided under the Bill, he said: “The punishments provided are stringent… so religious organisations that get foreign funding for getting more and more people to convert will be checked.”

Ankita Nishad, an advocate, agreed with Garud. “The Bill bans forceful conversions…. Having said that, it is not totally wrong to say that the RSS has an effect on BJP and hence the laws of the nation. Keeping that aside, on merits, the anti-conversion Bill is a right move.”

According to LiveLaw, the Bill provides for protection of 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 Bill provides for imprisonment up to three to five years along with a penalty of Rs 25,000 for forced conversion. It proposes imprisonment up to three to 10 years for converting a minor, woman or an SC/ST along with a penalty of Rs 50,000.



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