High Court in India Rejects Plea by Hindu Nationalists to Ban Religious Conversions
03/18/2020 India (International Christian Concern) – On Friday, March 13, the Delhi High Court allowed Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay to withdraw a public interest litigation calling for a ban religious conversions. Prior to allowing Upadhyay to withdraw his petition, the Delhi High Court stated that religion is a personal belief and to convert to a different faith was an individual’s choice.
According to Upadhyay’s public interest litigation, NGOs and other institutions are converting low caste Hindus in mass through intimidation, threats, and allurement.
“Many individuals/organizations have started conversions of SC/STs in rural areas and the situation is very alarming,” Upadhyay’s petition before the court claimed. “The mass religious conversion of the socially economically downtrodden men, women and children, and, in particular of the schedule caste and scheduled tribe community, is on the rise in the past 20 years.”
If left unchecked, Upadhyay’s petition claimed that, “Hindus will become a minority in India.”
To check these mass religious conversions, Upadhyay’s petition suggested enacting a law that would regulate and prevent religious conversions by force or deceit. This would be similar to anti-conversion laws already enacted in several states across India.
In rejecting this argument, Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar asked Upadhyay to withdraw his petition. The justices stated that professing a religion was a matter of personal believe and to convert to a different religion was an individual’s choice.
“If someone is threatening someone or intimidating someone, it is an offense under the Indian Penal Code,” the bench stated.
Radical Hindu nationalists often used the specter of mass religious conversions to pass laws and regulations that limit religious freedom. Indian Christians are falsely accused of conspiracies where poor Hindus are fraudulently converted to Christianity.
However, according to India’s own population data, the conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity does not hold up. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up only 2.3% of India’s overall population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still only make up 2.3% of the population.
In states where anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accused Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversions.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the state-level anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.
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