Anti-conversion bill in Chattisgarh

If the bill is approved, Chattisgarh will be the eighth state of the Union to have such a law. Whoever converts without informing the authorities, or converts another, risks steep fines and five years in prison.

Raipur (AsiaNews/CBCI) – The government of the central state of Chattisgarh, run by the Bharatiya Janata Party – BJP, India's largest political party with national-fundamentalist leanings – has declared its intention to approve a law "penalizing those who change their faith without informing the authorities".

According to the bill, people wishing to change religion must inform the district magistrate a month in advance. The penalty for those violating the law, including those who convert people forcibly, could be between 50,000 and a 100,000 rupees and imprisonment up to five years. The bill is set to be passed into law during the State Assembly's monsoon session (June – July).

Freedom of religion, which allows people to profess and propagate their religion, has been enshrined in Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The Chattisgarh government said the law "is not against the provisions laid down in the Constitution".

The introduction of this "anti-conversion law" was explicitly requested by the national BJP chief, Rajnath Singh, who ordered all governments where his party has a majority to bring in "legislation forcefully punishing conversions".

During a political meeting on 11 April, Singh said: "I have asked all leaders to ensure anti-conversion laws are adopted in all our states, to destroy the plans of Christian missionaries. The government of Jharkhand is ready with such a resolution and I invited Raman Singh, prime minister of Chhattisgarh, to go down this road."

Right now, seven states of the Union have anti-conversion laws: however, in the last two weeks, the governor of Rajasthan sent a similar bill back the State Assembly without signing it, and the new government of Tamil Nadu has announced its intention of scrapping its anti-conversion law.