Monday, July 14, 2008

Question mark on motive: Was anti-conversion law really needed? - ExpressIndia.Com

An excellent coverage on the so called "Freedom of Religion Bill" in Gujarat.

Gandhinagar, July 11 Answer to an RTI question reveals that there have been just three conversions in the last five years

The state government has enforced the anti-conversion law in right earnest from April 1, and even notified its rules in detail on Thursday. But a Home department response to a petition under the Right to Information Act has raised questions over the utility of the legislation that was passed last year amid controversy.

On a query by Ahmedabad-based Samson Christian of the All India Christian Council seeking to know the number of complaints of forceful conversions made to the police in Gujarat in the last five years, the Home department replied “only three” — with two of them in 2007.

Of the three cases, two were connected with conversion to Christianity in Dahod district, while one —closed by the police for want of evidence — was conversion to Islam in Godhra.

The activist says that if this is the number of conversions that came to the notice of the police in two decades, the unreported instances would not be big enough to warrant a whole new Act. “We are going to approach the courts based on this reply against the anti-conversion law,” Christian said.

Christian believes that the Indian Penal Code already has provisions to tackle any forced or deceitful conversion, obviating the need for a draconian law to deal with the issue.

In response to an earlier RTI petition filed by him seeking to know the Gujarat government’s view on what constitutes Hinduism, a confused Home department had passed the query to the Legal department only to get a response that “the government had not defined Hinduism”.

Apart from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh also have anti-conversion legislation., In Himachal Pradesh, the previous Congress led government had passed a similar law late last year.

Christian had also filed a petition before the Gujarat High Court along with Anand-based Alpha Charitable Trust following a police case against the Trust under the new Act in May 2007. After the HC reprimanded the government, the case was withdrawn.

Question mark on motive: Was anti-conversion law really needed? - ExpressIndia.Com