ICC Note: India’s Uttarakhand state has become the seventh state to put into force an “anti-conversion law”, joining Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand. Christian observers are concerned the addition of the anti-conversion law will only increase the persecution of Christians in Uttarakhand. Often, anti-conversion laws are used to falsely accuse Christian leaders of forced conversions.
04/30/2018 India (Morning Star News) – Uttarakhand has become the seventh state in India to put “anti-conversion” legislation in force.
Gov. Krishna Kant Paul on April 18 signed the “Freedom of Religion” bill (Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam), which the state Legislative Assembly passed.
“The bill has been signed by the governor,” Ravi Bijarniya, assistant director for information in the governor’s office, told Morning Star News.
Despite confirmation from the governor’s office, sources at the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) denied receipt of the signed bill.
“We confirm the receipt of 10 bills, which do not include the anti-conversion bill,” Officer on Special Duty R.B. Pant told Morning Star News. “We had sent the anti-conversion bill for approval on April 17, and if it has been signed, we might receive it soon.”
While staff members of the concerned office deny receiving the signed bill, local media and Jagran, a national newspaper, have reported the news of the governor’s approval of the bill and enforcement of the act.
Uttarakhand now joins Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand as states that have adopted anti-conversion bills, which Hindu extremists routinely use to falsely accuse Christians of forcible or fraudulent conversion.
Dr. John Dayal, spokesman for the United Christian Forum and the All India Catholic Union, told Morning Star News that enacting the anti-conversion law was driven by the ruling group’s communal agenda.
“It fails the very basic test of explaining to the world the need for having such a law,” he said. “There is no forcible or fraudulent conversion in the state to the Christian or Muslim or Sikh faiths shown either by the Census data or by the police statistics. In the absence of such reality, the only explanation can be that it is to threaten the minority communities or to curb the freedom of religion of the Dalit and backward communities whose rights are being crushed by the upper castes which exercise political power in the state.”
The ruling party came to power on a “rabid communal platform,” he added.
“We will challenge such a law, in the court of law and the court of public opinion,” Dayal said.
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