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11/05/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to The Print, the government of Uttar Pradesh in India has filed an affidavit with the Allahabad High Court defending the state’s anti-conversion law. The law is currently being challenged on constitutional grounds but has yet to be heard by the High Court due to multiple delays.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, commonly called an anti-conversion law, was enacted by the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on February 23, 2021. The law replaced an anti-conversion ordinance enacted by the executive branch of Uttar Pradesh in November 2020.

The anti-conversion law allows the state government to regulate all religious conversions and criminalizes forced religious conversions.

According to the text of the law, forceful religious conversions are punished by a jail term of one to five years and a fine of 15,000 rupees. However, forceful religious conversions of minors, women, or members of low caste communities are punished by a jail term of three to ten years and a fine of 50,000 rupees.

In its affidavit to the High Court, the government of Uttar Pradesh argued that it was within their power to “protect its citizens from any kind of unlawful or forceful conversion so that the liberty of thought, faith, belief and worship as well as equality or status stands safeguarded thereby assuring the dignity of the individuals.

The affidavit went on to describe several scenarios in which actions would and would not be considered forced conversion. This included several situations in which Christians used aid or other benefits to “allure” individuals into converting to Christianity.

Since the law was enacted, Christians and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh has endured an unprecedented wave of persecution. Since late-June, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented at least 56 incidents of religiously motivated violence taking place in Uttar Pradesh justified by the enactment of the anti-conversion law. In many cases, Christian victims are arrested on false forced conversion charges after being attacked by radical Hindu nationalists and taken to prison.

In states where similar anti-conversion laws are enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, 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.

Article 25 of India’s constitution, however, protects the rights an individual to freely profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. Anti-conversion laws limit this constitutional right by requiring individuals to have their conversions approved by the government. In addition to this, individuals from low caste backgrounds face the consequence of losing government benefits or being targeted by radicals when converting from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].