Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Passes Bill Against Forced Conversions
The state cabinet on Saturday passed the Madhya Pradesh Dharm Swatantrey (Freedom of Religion Act) 2020 with a provision of a maximum of 10 years in prison for anyone who “forces women, minors and people from scheduled castes and tribes to undergo a religious conversion. ” .
The bill says that Ghar Wapsi, or conversion to Hinduism, will not be treated as conversion. “Under this legislation, conversion to the ancestral religion will not be treated as conversion,” the draft said.
The proposed legislation will replace Madhya Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, said the state’s interior minister, Narottam Mishra.
He said the bill seeks to prohibit religious conversions or an attempted conversion through misrepresentation, seduction, threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage and any other fraudulent means.
Mishra said he foresees one to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of 1 lakh for conversions.
“Conversions and forced marriages will be a recognizable and inalienable offense. There will be a provision to declare such marriages null and void. Before conversion, the person and the religious gurus must inform the district magistrate at least 60 days before, ”said Mishra.
The bill provides a five-year prison term for religious gurus, who perform conversion ceremonies, the draft says.