Saturday, July 23, 2005

MP Govt may amend Religious Freedom Act

Friday, July 22, 2005 (Bhopal):

The enquiry report into the Jhabua riots of January 2004 is out.

The riots broke out after a minor girl was raped and killed on the premises of a missionary school.

One person had been killed, 15 Christian houses burnt and three churches were vandalized in the riots.

In his report, Retd DG of Police Narendra Prasad concludes that conversions by Christian missionaries was behind the violence.

Biased report?

The report quoting census figures of 1991 and 2001 says that the Christian population in Jhabua rose form 1.32 per cent in 1991 to 1.96 per cent in 2001.

It also claims the Religious Freedom Act of 1968, which makes it mandatory to inform the collector within a week after a conversion has taken place, was flouted.

Also, not a single conversion has been reported to the administration in the last three decades.

RSS demand

The government is now looking at amending the Act, a long standing demand of the Rashtriya Svayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

The changes will be on the lines of the Orissa Act under which a person wanting to convert and the priest have to inform the collector 15 days before the event.

"We are right now deliberating on the report and if needed, we will prepare an action taken report. If the need arises, we will amend the Anti-Conversion Bill," says Babulal Gaur, Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh.

Clean chit

On their part, the Christians believe this is an excuse to implement the RSS agenda.

"The report is like a time bomb. Any time the government feels like controlling the community they will make laws which the Christians will have a tough time fighting against it. This is what RSS wanted and they got it," says Indira Ayengar, President, Christian Association.

The report gives a clean chit to Asaram Bapu's disciple Krishna Ben and Nahar Singh, the MLA of Alirajpur who allegedly instigated the riots.

While coming down heavily on the Christian missionaries, the report hardly mentions the conversion of tribals by saffron brigade to mainstream Hinduism.

With the Assembly monsoon session just round the corner, a stricter religious freedom Act based on the report may just be a reality.