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ICC Note:

Hindu nationalists has announced plans to introduce proposed bills to the Indian government that would ban religious conversions. Many religious minorities fear the introduction of these bills will lead to more attacks and discrimination against their communities. Oddly, this ban on religious conversions would not include bans on conversions to Hinduism. In the eyes of many Hindu nationalists, all Indians are originally Hindus, so converting to Hinduism from another religion is not deemed a conversion, but is considered a “re-conversion” back to their original state. This understanding clearly shows the discriminatory policy that will likely follow the enactment of these law if they were to pass.  

10/13/2015 India (Cross Rhythms) – Release International is warning that legal pressure in India to outlaw religious conversions could lead to further violence. A new anti-conversion law is being proposed by ultra-nationalists who fear a decline of Hinduism in India.

A Bill proposing a national ban on conversions from Hinduism could soon be brought before India’s parliament. The Bill in the Upper House would propose a ten-year jail sentence for evangelists.

Two members of the ruling nationalist BJP party plan to introduce Private Member’s Bills in both houses that would outlaw conversion from Hinduism across the country.

‘Ultra-nationalists in India are creating a climate of intolerance that will lead to increased religious violence,’ warns Paul Robinson, the Chief Executive of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.

‘This Bill would outlaw evangelism and stir up further violence against India’s religious minorities,’ he adds. ‘Release is concerned this could incite more extremist attacks against Christians. In the interests of religious freedom, moves to outlaw conversion and criminalize evangelists must be dropped.’

The right-wing BJP party has links to Hindu nationalists and embraces the philosophy of Hindutva. This is the belief that the Indian subcontinent is the homeland of Hindus, and to be Indian is to be Hindu.

Extreme supporters of Hindutva regard Christians and Muslims as invaders. This belief is used to justify attacks against religious minorities and is driving the moves to outlaw religious conversion from Hinduism. The Bill would target those of other religions who are encouraging Hindus to change their faith.

The MP advocating the anti-conversion Bill in the Lower House is Yogi Adityanath. He is the head priest at a prominent Hindu temple.

And in the Upper House MP Tarun Vijay has reportedly said the Bill would propose a ten-year jail sentence for any ‘person found engaged in the act [of conversion]’.

Quoted in the Indian Tribune newspaper, the MP accused foreign influences of targeting India’s poor and vulnerable. He said: ‘It is very important to keep the Hindus in majority in the country.’

Many religious conversions in India are among the Dalits, the underclass sometimes referred to as the ‘untouchables’.

Dalit means ‘oppressed’ or ‘broken’. The Dalits are considered beneath the Hindu caste system and face extreme poverty and widespread discrimination. Many Dalits are converting to other faiths.

The anti-conversion legislation follows a religious census that revealed the predominance of Hindus in India has now dropped to below 80 per cent.

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