08/03/2013, 00.00
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Madhya Pradesh anti-conversion law 'a threat to democracy'

by Nirmala Carvalho
A few days before the 67th Independence Anniversary the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) asks state governor not to sign the amendment to the current law. The amendment would impose penalties of up to four years in prison and fines for those who try to convert without notifying the authorities and also for priests.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "The secular democracy of India is in danger because of anti-conversion laws like that of Madhya Pradesh".  The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has asked State Governor Shri Ram Naresh Yadav, not to sign the amendment to the Madhya Pradesh 1986 Freedom of Religion Act. According to Sajan George, president of the GCIC, not ratifying the amendment would be a sign of democracy, especially in view of the 67th anniversary of India's Independence, which falls on August 15.

The government of Madhya Pradesh debated the amendment on July 10. It concerns section 5 of the Act and requires priests and pastors to provide local authorities with details of the person who has decided to change his or her religion at least 30 days before the ceremony. Punishment for non-compliance says Christian leader, "is a fine of 50 thousand rupees (616 euro) and up to three years in prison, or 100 thousand rupees (1200 euros) and four years in prison the case of Dalits or tribals".

According to Sajan George, "the government is attempting to impose such a draconian law to please the Hindu majority in the upcoming elections." Madhya Pradesh is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu ultra-nationalist party that supports extremist groups of the Sangh Parivar, perpetrators of violence and persecution of ethnic, social and religious minorities throughout India.

However, the GCIC president notes "Our fore-fathers inscribed constitutional freedom of religion [in the Charter, ed] to protect every citizen. If the governor signs this amendment, India's democracy will be in danger."



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