12/21/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to media reports in India, the state government of Karnataka will soon introduce a controversial bill to enact an anti-conversion law. The introduction of the bill follows months of public debate over the issue of religious conversions which seems set to conclude with the enactment of another anti-conversion law in the coming weeks.
On Monday, December 20, the Basavaraj Bommai led government of Karnataka cleared the ‘Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021’. The proposed law would regulate religious conversions taking place in Karnataka and punish those involved in fraudulent religious conversions.
According to the bill, an individual seeking to change their religion must apply to the competent government authority two months in advance. The process of the conversion would then be regulated by the state government to ensure no illegal methods were used to convert the individual.
The bill also makes forced or fraudulent religious conversions a criminal offense. According to the bill, individuals could face 10 years imprisonment and a penalty of 100,000 rupees if convicted of engaging in forced conversions.
“The proposed anti-conversion law is nothing but a legal permit for radical Hindu nationalists to attack and harass religious minorities,” Pastor Sunil Mahade told International Christian Concern (ICC) in October. “The proposed anti-conversion law is unconstitutional as it violates the right to freedom of faith. There is absolutely no need of this law. There are enough clauses in the existing constitution to deal with forced or fraudulent conversions.”
While Karnataka has still not officially enacted the promised anti-conversion law, many radical Hindu nationalists on the ground are acting as if the law already exists. Increased attacks by radical Hindu nationalists across Karnataka has many Christians concerned about what will happen when the anti-conversion law is enacted.
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.
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