02/05/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), India’s national government has ruled out the possibility of enacting a national law regulating religious conversions. This announcement was made as several state governments have indicated their intent to enact laws commonly known as anti-conversion laws.
On February 2, G. Kishan Reddy, a junior minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the parliament that the national government had no plans to enact a national law against religious conversions.
“Prosecution of offenses related to religious conversions is primarily the concerns of state governments and union territory administrations,” Reddy told the parliament.
According to UCAN, Christian leaders welcomed this announcement. However, they also went on to appeal to the government that anti-conversion laws currently enacted in several states across India should be repealed.
“Any anti-conversion law is against the constitution,” Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Pamplany told UCAN. “Any law made against the spirit of the constitution cannot be justified. The constitution has guaranteed people to choose and practice whatever religion one wishes to.”
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 states where anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya 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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