In recent days, a debate on the enactment of an anti-conversion law has got amplified on social media. The need for a strong anti-conversion law has always been felt for a long time in the country. Some states have their respective anti-conversion laws, but there is none at the national level.
Until about last few years, whenever protagonists of anti-conversion law raised their voice, it was suppressed by the antagonists or the so-called left-liberal intelligentsia of the country. Ironically, the freehand given to people involved in fraudulent and forcible conversion was also hailed as religious freedom.
Let’s see what the Indian constitution says about religious freedom.
Articles 25 – 28 of Indian constitution talks about the religious freedom of citizens. Out of the 4 articles, article 25 summarises India’s stand on religious freedom and it reads, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”
The constitution of India, as explained above, provides a fundamental right to every citizen to profess, practise and propagate the religion. But there are reasonable restrictions imposed on this right which includes the forceful character of religious conversion. Nor a person can be enticed or lured by some material gains to convert. It should only be the merit of the religion and its teachings based on which a person can form the opinion to convert from one religion to others.
However, there is a very thin line difference between luring by other means and luring by the merits of the religion. In many cases, this article stands violated. For example, in a case reported from UP, a life of women was ruined.
A pastor in Uttar Pradesh first converted a woman and then sold her off in Rs 1 lakh to a person in Punjab.
A nation-wide law will give more weight to this concern of forcible and fraudulent conversion ongoing in the country. And, this will enable states to take measures in the form of state-specific laws against such frauds.
Not all states have anti-conversion law, a nation-wide act will give a model law for other states to follow
Anti-conversion law is already in place in some of the states like Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Gujarat.
However, a nation-wide law will help states like Kerala and north-eastern states to frame their own laws where incidents of fraudulent and forces conversions keep coming to light. In fact, the former Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan, a CPI leader, himself has reportedly charged the Popular Front of India, an Islamist organisation prominently operating in Kerala, of doing Islamisation of Kerala in the next 20 years. This activity of conversion of youth using money and other means amounted to demographic aggression which could create a social disorder.
States with laws to check forcible conversions have been effective in checking them. Here are some cases.
During the conversion process, sentiments of other religious followers are hurt
In a case from Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur, as reported by Punjab Kesari, an entire village was converted to Christianity. During the process, allegations of mocking the Hindu way of worshipping were reported by the media.
National level law will empower central agencies like CBI and NIA
The details of a central act will be known only after it is passed. But it can be said that once such an act is in force, it will help in strengthening the central agencies like National Investigation Agency (NIA) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) to conduct probe in cases of international level organisations dealing in religious conversion.
The cases for foreign funding to NGOs working in India are frequently reported by media.
Forcible religious conversion caused panic and violence in society
In the absence of national law, priests, missionaries and NGOs haven’t cared much about the reasonable restrictions imposed on the propagation of religion in the article 25 itself that it is subjected to public order, health and morality.
The news of the alleged killing of a man Ramalingam due to his opposition to religious conversion is still fresh in the memory of many countrymen.
Remember, Tamil Nadu doesn’t have anti-conversion law. The state had one law but it had already been repealed. Had the law been there in place, the situation may probably have not arisen? So, a nation-wide law may push the state in having its own law and check such violence.
In a case reported from Uttar Pradesh, when some youths reached the place where a mass conversion was taking place and protested against it, they were attacked by the people involved in the conversion.
The cases above show that forcible and fraudulent conversion is a threat to the social fabric of the country. Whenever there are reports of forcible conversions, it leads to protest and violence among the other community. The incidents of conversion have also weakened the social trust of one community on the other.
Therefore, in such times, it is not only important but inevitable to have a nation-wide anti-conversion law to maintain the mosaic of cultures that India is.
Note – Views expressed here belong to the author only.