Haryana adopts an anti-conversion law
Another Indian state ruled by Hindu nationalists has approved legislation that fuels intercommunal tensions. The new law imposes the burden of proof on the accused to demonstrate that he or she was not converted by extorsion, force or deception. If Karnataka passes a bill currently before the state legislature, 11 Indian states will have this kind of law.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Legislative Assembly of Haryana, a northern Indian state, has approved a controversial anti-conversion law, the standard measure of Hindu nationalists that is often used against religious minorities.
The Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill 2022 became law with the votes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as state chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar who sees it as a key tool to fight the so-called love jihad, i.e., mixed marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men. Opposition lawmakers from the Congress party left the chamber in protest at the time of the vote.
With Haryana’s law, anti-conversion legislation, first introduced in Odisha in 1967, is now in force in 10 Indian states; the other nine are Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh.
A similar bill is before the state legislature in Karnataka, where intercommunal tensions are running high over a dress code that bans the hijab in schools despite strong local opposition, including that of the local Catholic Church.
The text of the Haryana law approved bans conversions by deception, force or fraudulent means, imposing prison sentences of one to five years and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees (about US$ 1,300). If conversion involves a minor, a woman or a person from a disadvantaged caste or tribe, the prison sentence rises to four and 10 years, with a fine of at least 300,000 rupees (US$ 3,925).
In a matter that is by its very nature hard to ascertain, the law requires the accused to prove his or her innocence. This will inevitably create a generalised climate of suspicion despite the Indian constitution asserting the principle of religious freedom.