07/26/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh makes anti-conversion law tougher

The state assembly yesterday approved – with a voice vote and without parliamentary debate – a decree that strengthens the anti-conversion law. The Christian Association has protested.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – The central-northern Madhya Pradesh Sate assembly yesterday passed a controversial bill making the state's anti-conversion law, in force since 1968, even tougher, by preventing "religious conversions by force or allurement". The new decree makes it obligatory for individuals intending to convert to inform the district magistrate through a declaration one month in advance – failing which he will face a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment.

Similarly, priests failing to inform the district authorities about their plans to preside over conversion ceremonies face up to one year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000. The name and address of the converted and the date and venue of the conversion ceremony must be supplied.

After this first phase, the police "will verify the credentials of the priest or organisation ahead of the conversion and that this is not being done by force or with allurement".

The amendment to the law was passed by a voice vote without discussion in the house: MPs belong to the opposition Congress party protested in vain against the text and the way in which it was approved.

Christian leaders say the new law "will give a new weapon to those people who constantly attack our missionaries". "Christians are implicated in trumped up conversion cases. This year alone, we were subject to 24 attacks by extremist nationalists who have molested us several times because of false proselytism charges," said president of the Christian Association, Indira Iyengar. (NC)

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