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Conversion Confusion


The Law Commission in UP has recommended that the state enact a law on religious conversion. There are already laws of this kind in ten states, but going by the concern expressed in many quarters, these are not very effective in addressing the roots of the problem. Unless the authorities know what exactly the transgression is, how are they going to fix it?
It is true that cases of conversion, many of these in the ‘mass’ category, are creating a growing rift in society. Indian citizens have the right to practice their religion and ‘propagate’ it. The latter is the provision used by those who actively target other communities to justify the means they use. Although they are not supposed to use threats, inducements and other kinds of trickery to achieve their objectives, they do so openly, and in many ways. Like the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act, this law is commonly breached with impunity.
There are many sections of society so poor and backward that they neither know their constitutional rights nor understand the importance of their ancestral belief systems. These are, unfortunately, the most targeted in a deliberate way. With the conversion they often lose many of their indigenous social and cultural practices, alienating them in many ways from their environment and their communities. At many places, the aggressive evangelisation causes serious law and order problems. There have also been allegations that organisations involved in conversion – almost all foreign funded – even collaborate with anti-social and anti-national forces to achieve their objectives.
There is also the new practice of ‘Love Jihad’ that is in the news almost on a daily basis. It is obvious that such forced or induced conversions also make it difficult for those who convert in the natural course because of marriage or genuine acceptance of a faith (somewhat rare considering the natural trend in the present is towards atheism, deism and ‘spiritualism’).
It is extraordinary that the agencies of the law are finding it difficult to take action against those who breach the essential spirit of a secular society. One need only look at the original charter of those involved in conversion, or hear their speeches and exhortations, to learn that they are not so much teaching their religion as much as denigrating the beliefs of others and demonising their Gods. This fundamentally comes in the category of hate speech and should be strictly punished. So called ‘rationalists’ who focus purely on a specific religion even as they tip-toe around others should be placed in the same category. Only governments that have clarity on these issues, and are determined to act, should produce such laws. Otherwise, it may give a false sense of security to the target communities, as is presently the case in Uttarakhand.