11/10/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Jharkhand: Hindu fundamentalists want anti-conversion law

by Santosh Digal
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are pushing for a law that would introduce a statewide ban on the conversion of Hindus to other religions. Similar laws are in place in seven other Indian states. Catholics are critical of the project.

Ranchi (AsiaNews) – The state of Jharkhand, backed by the Hindu fundamentalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration, is prepared to adopt a law that would prevent Hindus from converting to other religions.  “Everyone should oppose it. Everyone should join forces against the planned anti-conversion law,” said Fr Stan Kujur, a Jesuit clergyman from Jameshedpur.

Jaggnath Sahi, RSS chief in Jharkhand, told journalists that his organisation would asks the BJP-lead government to draft a bill banning religious conversions.

“We will take up the issue with Chief Minister Arjun Munda . . . to draft a law to ban conversion in the state. Conversion in any form should be condemned,” Sahi said. “Conversion is banned in many countries like China, Israel and others. It is only in India where conversion is not banned,” he added.

The seven Indian states with anti-conversion legislation, formally known as Freedom of Religion Acts, are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

These laws require the government to check conversions from Hinduism to other religions in order to avoid proselytising, manipulation or the use of financial incentives. The law does not prevent conversion from Christianity or Islam to Hinduism.

For Fr Kujur, professing one’s religion “is a matter of freedom of conscience”, a matter of personal rights, something that is enshrined in the Indian constitution. Such is the nature of democracy.

“No one should be forced to profess one religion or another,” he said. The RSS’s anti-conversion plan “is not necessary”.

The state government should focus instead on development and the welfare of the people, Fr Kujur stressed.

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