Activists, Opposition Hit Out at BJP Over Bill Against Religious Conversion in India's Karnataka

St Francis Xavier Cathedral - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.12.2021
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Karnataka is set to become the fourth state - after Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat - ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party to have adopted an anti-conversion law. The opposition parties and activists has slammed the legislation, saying it targets minorities.
As India's Karnataka state government tables an anti-conversion Bill in its legislature, a number of civil rights activists, minority groups, and opposition parties have come out against the move, claiming that the Bill violates fundamental laws and individual rights.
The legislation stipulates the penalty for forced religious conversion. It also requires those who wish to convert to another religion to file an application before the Deputy Commissioner two months in advance.
Justifying the Bill, Karnataka state chief Basavaraj Bommai has said that the government aims to prevent only those cases when a person is offered monetary or other benefits to convert to another religion.
With No Data and Facts, BJP Just Politicising Issue: Activists
Speaking with Sputnik, Professor Y Rajendra, the president in Karnataka of the People's Union For Civil Liberties, said: "The Bill is politically motivated, unconstitutional, illegal and no due process was followed while preparing it - no discussion was held at all before drafting this Bill."
Prof Rajendra on Wednesday also released a report, titled 'Criminalising the Practice of Faith', listing the 39 incidents of hate crimes against the Christian community in Karnataka in 2021, most of which were perpetrated by Hindu activists, including such groups as Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
He also stressed the fact that no matter what the BJP says, there is no need for such a Bill in the state.
"Where is the need for this Bill? This Bill is designed to harass minorities. So many incidents are reported where these Hindu group members are forcefully barging into individuals' (mostly Christian) homes. Who are they to enter someone's house?
"Most of the time, police are not taking any action against Hindu groups - it seems either they're aligning with them or scared to take action against them," Prof Rajendra explained.
Calling the Bill draconian, Dr Peter Machado, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bengaluru city, told Sputnik: "It is a known fact that Christian missionaries run schools and hospitals across the country. But there is no single case where one can prove that we ask for someone to convert from their religion in exchange for education or health benefits."
"If our services were aimed at conversion, half of the country would have been Christians by now," he added.

"This Bill aims to make [Christians] second class citizens," the Archbishop added.

Last week, many Christian societies and their members staged a protest in the state capital Bengaluru.
In a text message, Congress state president DK Shivakumar told Sputnik: "This is all a political game. We will oppose the Bill inside and outside the assembly."
The BJP, which faced scathing attacks from minority groups on Wednesday, stressed: "The Christian population in the state has risen from 0.5 percent to 3 percent."
"All conversions - as far as the BJP are concerned - are illegal," the BJP's senior politician Vaman Acharya added.
However, he failed to provide any data or numbers to back up his claim.
The Government of India says that in 2001, Karnataka was 1.91 percent Christian whereas in 2011 that percentage had fallen to 1.87 percent.
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