Monday, May 14, 2007

Anti-Conversion Bill Anticipated in Eighth Indian State

We learned today from Compass Direct that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to enact an anti-conversion law in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand in the upcoming session of the state Assembly. Hindu militants commonly use anti-conversion legislation to falsely accuse Christians of converting people through force or allurement. In this way, they justify attacks on Christians or deflect prosecution away from themselves by pressing charges of "forcible conversion" without any evidence. Reading through the numerous reports of persecution that VOMC has received in the last year, you can see how common these accusations are.

Seven Indian states already have anti-conversion laws, known as Freedom of Religion Acts: Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. While anti-conversion laws were enforced in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (before they were divided into two separate states) in 1967 and in Orissa in 1968, the legislation in Rajasthan state, which passed in the state Assembly in April 2006, is still awaiting governor's assent. Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat also have passed such laws in 1978 and 2003 respectively, with their governors' approval, but they have not been implemented as rules have yet to be framed. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly passed its anti-conversion law on December 30, 2006, and the state governor signed it into a law on February 20, 2007. The rules are yet to be framed, however, to bring the law into force. Some Hindu nationalists are pushing for a national anti-conversion law.

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