Op-ed: "India's Conversion Laws"

July 30, 2006

Source: The New Nation

[nation.ittefaq.com/artman/publish/article_29561.shtml]

On July 30, 2006 The New Nation reported, "An alliance of Indian groups representing various faiths and castes has raised alarm over 'anti-conversion laws' and condemned the move of banning religious conversions in several Hindu nationalists' government-run states of India. Last week a statement from the alliance of groups that included over 100 Muslim, Buddhist and Christian bodies as well as numerous lawyers, academics and politicians expressed their grave concern. The Reuters news agency put up a report in this regard saying that 'the laws would seriously infringe and undermine religious freedom in India'. Among the alliance opposing the laws are a number of groups representing 'Dalits', formerly called untouchables, who are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy in mostly Hindu majority India. Strongly opposing the anti-conversion laws, the signatories to the statement sounded stern warning saying these laws 'deepen and worsen religious divisions, conflicts and violence instead of enhancing the search for religious tolerance, harmony and mutual respect' in the wider Indian national life. At present, at least three of India's 29 states, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its allies, have enacted such anti-conversion laws. BJP's hard-line and extremist followers - being imbiued with the idea of 'India is for Hindus and Hindus are for India' - are often found to become instrumental in committing communal violence in various parts across the country."