Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A new hold on conversions is likely to befall Madhya Pradesh: these days the Government of the Indian State will discuss in Parliament an amendment to the anti-conversion law already in force. The change requires priests to provide local authorities all the details of the person who decides to change his or her religion at least 30 days before the ceremony. Otherwise, he risks a fine of 1000 rupees (€13) and up to three years in prison.
The amendment concerns section 5 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968 and was introduced in 2006, without being debated in Parliament. In the original version, the law did not involve the priest, but asked only the future convert to inform the district authorities of his or her decision.
For Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the conversion laws "are aimed at demonizing the Christian minority and are used as an instrument of persecution". Like Madhya Pradesh, other Indian States as well have introduced similar measures: Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Himanachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan. "These laws", he adds, "are a challenge to the secular credentials of our constitution and fundamental human rights".
In theory, these measures should prohibit conversions obtained by force or with money, and three years in prison for "proselytism". However, they are exploited to persecute Christians, by producing false allegations of forced conversions.