02/26/2021, 12.32
INDIA
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In Uttar Pradesh, you need a judge’s permission to convert

by Nirmala Carvalho

A law approved criminalising religious conversion and denying bail to those accused. The bishop of Lucknow: "The anti-conversion law goes against the fundamental right to profess, practice and spread one's religion". "Shrewdly, 'Ghar wapasi' (conversion to Hinduism, editor's note) is not considered a forced conversion while in reality it is there that force, intimidation and threats are used to reconvert".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Uttar Pradesh Assembly on 24th February passed the controversial law against religious conversion through marriage, reported ANI. The bill outlaw’s conversions through marriage, deceit, coercion, or enticement.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Bill, 2021, was passed after a voice vote in the state Assembly.

The new law in the state makes religious conversion a non-bailable offence, inviting penalties up to 10 years in prison if found to be guilty of using marriage to force someone to change religion. Violation of provisions of the law provides for a jail term of one to five years with a penalty of Rs 15,000 for forceful religious conversion. For conversions of minors and women of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community, there will be jail term of three to 10 years with a Rs 25,000 penalty. In cases of forced mass conversions, the ordinance has provisions for a jail term of three to 10 years with a Rs 50,000 fine.

Further, according to the new law, if an individual wants to marry after converting to any other religion, they will need to take permission from the district magistrate two months before the wedding.

Bishop Gerald Mathias Bishop of Lucknow Diocese told AsiaNews, “The anti-conversion law goes against the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate one's religion and faith. It goes against the fundamental freedom of a person to choose and practice a religion of one's choice. It is a God-given right based on natural law and guaranteed in the Constitution. It is absurd one has to get permission from the D.M. if one wants to convert to another religion. It also makes inter-faith marriages almost impossible thus depriving adults’ freedom to choose their partner. Cleverly "Ghar wapasi" is not considered as forced conversion while in fact it is there that force, intimidation and threats are used to reconvert. The basic intent of the law is to ban and prohibit all conversion, even voluntary conversion.

The law can be easily miss used or abused as there are several such cases already, the recent being the false accusation of a Principal Sr Bhagya SD, of Sacred Heart Convent School - a Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh”.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, President, Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said, “The new ordinance, was promulgated on November 24 and hours after it was promulgated, a case was registered under the new ordinance.  This new ordinance will not only be misused, but will empower the right wing extremists and anti-social elements with a sense of impunity to harass, intimidate and carry out  violence against the  minuscule Christian minorities.”

He observed: “To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.

The bogey of conversion is just a propaganda to institutionalise communalism.  The Government census data, reveal a stagnation or decline in the Christian population of the country, In 1951, the first census Christians made up 2.3% of India’s population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.”

“This new ordinance will provoke attacks by vigilante groups based on false and fabricated conversion allegations, and the police will apprehend the victims than the instigators of the violence.“

The human rights activist concluded: “In Secular India, this new ordinance, is contrary to the principles of a constitutional democracy which enshrines under Article 25 Article 25 guarantees the freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion to all citizens. Perhaps, all citizens are not equal, especially the 2.3% of the Indian Christian population which are now rendered second class citizens.”

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