Christians in India’s Jharkhand state fear increased harassment of local Christians following an announcement by the ruling BJP of the intention to pass an anti-conversion law. Anti-conversion laws, active in 5 states across India, are often abused by local Hindu radicals to harass Christian leaders. These laws make it illegal to convert someone to a religion by force or allurement. Hindu radicals falsely claim Christian leaders have forced or allured their followers to Christianity which often subjects these leaders to years of legal battles. Will anti-conversion laws continue to spread in India as BJP gains political power?
05/08/2017 India (UCAN) – The ruling pro-Hindu party in eastern India’s majority-tribal Jharkhand state has pushed for an anti-conversion law that church leaders fear will be used to intensify the harassment of local Christians.
The two-day state-level executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP), that concluded May 1 in Palamu, adopted a resolution proposing a law to end religious conversion activities in the state.
“The resolution asks the state government to formulate a law that will make all conversions done through allurement or force illegal and punishable,” J.B. Dubit, the state’s BJP spokesperson, told ucanews.com May 2.
The BJP and other Hindu groups maintain that Christian missionaries’ service in the fields of education and health are a cover to attract poor tribal and Dalit people in the villages.
“We are not against religious conversion per se, but it is not acceptable to take advantage of someone’s poverty, or other such issues, by coercing them to switch religions,” Dubit said.
However, he did not identify any specific religious groups or provide data to support such claims.
The Indian Constitution “provides all citizens the freedom to practice and propagate the religion of their choice without any interference from anybody, including the government,” Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Billung of Ranchi, based in the state capital, told ucanews.com.
“We Christians do not convert anyone through allurement or force but allow those who want to join the community of their own accord,” he said.
Bishop Billung said that the BJP was pushing its agenda of turning India into a theocratic Hindu state, using all resources at its disposal. “The party has used the media to carry false news of conversion from Hinduism and reconversion to Hinduism to prepare the ground for an anti-conversion law,” he said.