Karnataka: Christian community in dismay over anti-conversion bill becoming Act
The "Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion" which has now become an Act, has created havoc and disagreement within the Christian community of the state.
The "Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion" which has now become an Act, has created havoc and disagreement within the Christian community of the state. J A Kanthraj PRO and Spokesperson Archdiocese of Bangalore said, "The entire Christian Community in Karnataka is deeply disturbed and greatly pained at the passing of the Bill "Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion - 2021" which is now an Act".
The Community feels betrayed for all its selfless services to society in the fields of education, health and social service. "The contents of the Act remain bitter, brutal and abrasive in its nature from what was introduced as a Bill nine months back and now translated into an Act", he added.
Showing his discontent he added, "The Metropolitan Archbishop Peter Machado, the Bishops of Karnataka and all the Christian Leaders, and others who uphold the secular fabric of our democratic society will take a decision to find a legal recourse and challenge the Act in its totality". Earlier, the opposition Congress leaders attacked the ruling BJP claiming the legislation was a "political gimmick" brought in to divert attention from issues like unemployment and inflation.
Congress had staged a walkout from the Legislative Council as it passed the Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, which was passed by the state Legislative assembly in December last year. "To do such a thing is not allowed in the Constitution. The biggest conversion in Karnataka happens in the Lingayat community. This is a political gimmick that the media is also publicising. It is a political strategy of BJP-RSS to humiliate some (segment of the) population and target a particular community. Freedom of religion is a Constitutional right and everyone has it. You cannot stop someone from converting. As a government, you are there to protect the Constitution and give protection to all society of people in society," NA Hassan, Congress MLA, told ANI.
Another Congress MLA from Shivajinagar, Rizwan Arshad, also expressed his dismay saying it was a bull brought in to please the RSS. "It is a political bill, brought in to please their Sangh Parivar bosses and to divert attention from 40% commission, joblessness, inflation and price rise and hide their inefficiencies. They are going to target the Christian community and churches. This will empower hooligans who target churches. This is a sadist bill and against natural justice. This bill will empower those who target churches," Arshad said.
According to the state government, the 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 any fraudulent means. The bill passed in both houses of Karnataka by the BJP government gives the right to any person to file a complaint against religious conversion, protecting the right to freedom of religion in the state. It proposes imprisonment of up to ten years for forced religious conversion and the offence is made to be non-bailable and cognizable.
Karnataka Minister, C N Ashwath Narayan, however, refuted Congress's allegations. "It is a constitutional Bill. It will bring in more clarity. Bill has provisions that have a clear-cut process so that there is no confusion, hatred, conflict or differences. A real process has been brought into the Constitution which is forward-looking. Should we allow more problems into society? it is a sensitive issue, and as lawmakers, it is our responsibility to take up this issue very strongly," he told ANI.
According to the new law, in the case of any converted person, his or her parents, brother, sister, or any other person who is related by blood, marriage, adoption, or in any form associated, or colleague may file a complaint of such conversion. The bill has the purpose of prohibiting unlawful conversion of religion, providing protection to those who were forced to convert from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, the promise of marriage, or by any fraudulent means and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
"No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person from one religion to another by use or practice of force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by any other means or promise of marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion," the Bill says. Notably, the bill was introduced by the BJP government in the Karnataka Assembly last year after which it sparked controversy and was opposed by Opposition parties in the state. (ANI)
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