Friday, July 21, 2006

New tougher Anti Conversion Bill to be introduced in Madhya Pradesh

We have just learned from sources in Bhopal that the Freedom of Religion Bill in Madhya Pradesh better known as the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam 1968 has been made stricter and has been tabled before the Legislative Assembly in Bhopal for approval.

The preexisting Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam has been strengthened in this attempt and has been made to closely follow the example of the Orissa Freedom of religion bill which was also introduced in 1968.

According to our sources the major change or deviation that this new Freedom of Religion Bill will have from the old one is in the area of informing the government about the conversion.

The old Bill simply said this: "(1) Whoever converts any person from one religious faith to another either by performing himself the ceremony necessary for such conversion as a religious priest or by taking part directly or indirectly in such ceremony shall, within such period after the ceremony as may be prescribed, send and intimation to the District Magistrate of the district in which the ceremony has taken place of the fact of such conversion in such form as may be prescribed. [2] If any person fails with sufficient causes to comply with the provisions contained in sub-section (1), he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year of with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both."

According to the new Bill the parties which are involved in religious conversion either directly or indirectly will now have to inform the district collector about the intent to convert one month prior to the actual date of the conversion ceremony.

The collector will then order an enquiry into the request for conversion and may involve the local police for the same. Only after the collector is satisfied that the conversion is not forced or fraudulent will he give his permission for the same and then the ceremony might take place. The penalties for not fulfilling the above requirements have not been changed although there was pressure to change the monetary penalty to 1, 00,000 Indian Rupees and imprisonment to 3 years.

This new Bill is against the freedom of conscience as enshrined in the Constitution of India. It goes against the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well to which India is a signatory.

This proposed bill is not necessarily anti Christian in nature. We have to understand that this is anti Dalit and anti Tribal in its essence. This is being brought so that Dalits and Tribals may never have the dignity of life they so much deserve. This is depriving them of their Freedom to choose.

This report is based on reports from trusted sources but we still await the proposed document. We will continue to update you as updates arrive. Please pray against this proposed freedom of religion bill which will only curtail and trample upon the freedom of religion of individuals.