01/19/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the Times of India, the state government of Gujarat is considering following the leads of two other BJP-led states in introducing a new anti-conversion law. The state government claims it is exploring the idea of introducing a stricter anti-conversion law to thwart ‘love jihad’.
Since 2003, Gujarat has been among a handful of states that have enacted an anti-conversion law. According to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, religious conversions done through force, allurement, or by fraudulent means are illegal and criminalized.
Several departments in the Gujarat government have been asked to look into the legality of the new anti-conversion law and how it will affect the 2003 Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.
“Our existing law has a provision to act against a person who indulges in forced conversion in the name of love or marriage,” government sources told the Times of India. “However, the state government has been seeking feedback from elected legislators as well as groups from society on whether there ought to be stricter provisions to contain ‘love jihad’.”
Recently, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh enacted anti-conversion ordinances. Both state governments, led by the BJP, claim the ordinances were enacted to combat the issue of ‘love jihad’ and other fraudulent religious conversions.
Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians and Muslims are accused of converting poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam in mass by fraudulent means.
In regards to Christianity, India’s own population data does not support this conspiracy. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up 2.3% of India’s population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.
In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.
To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.
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