12/23/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to The Indian Express, hundreds of people in India’s Karnataka state marched in protest to the proposal of an anti-conversion law. The Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, commonly known as an anti-conversion law, was introduced to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly earlier this week by the state’s BJP-led government.
Like other anti-conversion laws in India, the Karnataka anti-conversion law would empower the state government to regulate all religious conversions. Additionally, the bill would criminalize religious conversions done through “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, or by any fraudulent means or by marriage”.
The bill, however, provides an exemption for people “reconverting” to their “immediate previous religion”. With other anti-conversion laws, this exemption has been used by radical Hindu nationalists to justify ceremonies where individuals are “reconverted” to Hinduism from minority faiths.
For Christians in Karnataka, the enactment of the proposed anti-conversion law would likely increase the persecution of their community at the hand of radical Hindu nationalists.
“Now that the contents of the bill have been read by all, it has been found that it is not only affecting the Christians,” Bengaluru Archbishop Peter Machado, who participated in Wednesday’s protest, told The Indian Express. “It is affecting the larger society. It is a question of privacy, the question of marriage, the question of women, Dalits and Muslims.”
“Any help or concession provided by any of our Christian institutions working in the fields of education, health, senior citizen care and orphanages, to any member not from the Christian community, can be construed as an inducement for conversion as per the bill,” Archbishop Machado continued.
On September 29, Karnataka Chief Minister B.C. Bommai announced his plan to enact an anti-conversion law in Karnataka. The announcement, along with statements made by other BJP politicians championing the proposed anti-conversion law, led to a significant spike in attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Karnataka.
While Karnataka has still not enacted the anti-conversion law, many radical Hindu nationalists on the ground are acting as if the law already exists. The increase in attacks 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, Uttar 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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