Himachal Pradesh passes anti-conversion legislation
- Himachal Pradesh passes anti-conversion legislation
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Dharamshala, Dec 30: Himachal Pradesh has passed a legislation
banning forced religious conversions.
The Congress-led government in the state passed the legislation
during its four-day winter session held at the newly constructed
Vidhan Sabha (State Legislature) in Dharamshala on Friday.
Kaul Singh, Law Minister, Himachal Pradesh, said, that "according to
the bill if someone was forced to change his religion without his
consent then he could come back to his own religion within a month".
Under the bill, persons who had forced or induced someone to change
his/her religion then he/she would liable for punishment, he said.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also welcomed the
In the recent months, five states ruled by BJP or its allies have
introduced or strengthened anti-conversion laws, which they say will
protect India's religious identity and foster communal harmony. But
this is the first time such a law has been passed in a government
ruled by Congress Party, which has been critical of such laws in BJP-
Under some of the new laws, anyone planning to leave the Hindu fold
must obtain certificates from officials and affidavits from courts
saying they were converting out of free will and not by inducements.
For decades, conversion has been a sensitive issue in India, with
right-wing Hindus accusing Christian missionaries in particular of
converting poor Hindus with inducements such as free schooling and
But Christians, who have long advocated for the rights of Dalits, say
those who switch their faith do so to escape the oppressive caste
system amongst Hindus.
Minority groups also say Hindu hardliners polarize voters on
religious lines to gain political mileage.
Millions of low-caste Hindus switch their faith to escape the 3,000-
year-old rigid caste system dominated by the once-priestly Brahmin
Hindu scriptures divide people into Brahmin priests, warriors,
farmers and labourers, while the rest are beyond definition
The dalits, who constitute over 16 per cent of India's 1.1 billion
population, are considered "untouchables", and often face
discrimination, performing the most menial and degrading jobs.
The caste system still persists in villages, despite the country's
spectacular economic success and exposure to Western culture. India's
constitution also forbids caste discrimination.
Hindus form 80 per cent of secular India's billion-plus population,
while Muslims account for 13 per cent, Christians less than three per
cent and religious minorities such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and
Parsis make up the rest.