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Opinion

Madhya Pradesh’s conversion law is stricter than the UP’s

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Madhya Pradesh’s cabinet on Saturday approved a bill to regulate interreligious marriages in the state that provides up to 10 years in prison for “forcing women, minors and people from recognized castes and tribes to undergo religious conversion” with a special clause in any punitive action against those who return to their ancestral religion.

The proposed law called the Madhya Pradesh Dharmik Swatantrata (Freedom of Religion) Act of 2020 says that “Paitrik Dharm me Wapsi” (return to the father’s religion) will not be treated as conversion. “Under this legislation, reconversion to ancestral religion will not be treated as conversion,” says the bill, which defines ancestral religion as the religion of the person’s father at the time of birth.

Madhya Pradesh Interior Minister Nirottam Mishra said that the conversion will not be a punishable offense under this law because it is more a mistake than a crime.

Read also | Madhya Pradesh cabinet passes bill against forced conversions

The proposed legislation will replace the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, Mishra said, and is different from the Uttar Pradesh government legislation enacted through an ordinance on November 25. Unlike the MP law, the UP ordinance does not establish parental property rights for children of an interfaith marriage, monthly maintenance, and a fine of Rs 50,000 for an interfaith union without the permission of the district magistrate. In UP, the amount of the fine is 25,000 rupees. The jail terms in the two laws are the same.

“The bill seeks to prohibit religious conversions or an attempted conversion through misrepresentation, seduction, threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage, and any other fraudulent means. Such a conspiracy and the complicity of a person for conversion have also been prohibited, ”Mishra said.

According to a draft of the approved bill, “The forced conversion of a woman, minor, caste and scheduled tribe will carry a penalty of 2 to 10 years in prison and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000. Mass forced conversion will attract 5-10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs1 lakh. The burden of proof will fall on the accused. ”

“Conversions and forced marriages will be a recognizable and inalienable offense. There will be a provision to declare forced marriages between religions and forced conversion null and void. The person and the religious gurus must inform the district judge at least 60 days prior to the scheduled date of the marriage. Violation of this rule will attract 3 to 5 years in prison and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000, ”the bill says.

“The MP government has adopted the toughest rule against forced conversion in India. By providing justice to the victim of forced conversion, the proposed legislation will guarantee their rights as well, ”said Mishra.

Retired Superior Court Judge AK Gohil said: “The bill has no provision to deal with past cases of forced conversion and there is also no time limit for filing a complaint with the police after marriage. Like the Dowry Prohibition Act, which has a time limit for filing an FIR up to seven years of marriage, this proposed law must also mention the time limit for filing an FIR. ”

Narendra Saluja, spokesperson for the MP Congressional committee, said: “We welcome this bill, but the provisions are more on the agenda of the BJP than a real concern for women. The BJP is trying to create a gap in society to win the elections.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind State President Hazi Haroon said: “From the Prime Minister to the BJP MLAs, all BJP leaders are using the bill as a step against the jihad of love. BJP leaders are targeting the Muslim community with this bill. If love jihad is really a big problem and a crime, they should have mentioned it in the bill. But the state government has not mentioned it because they know that the bill can easily be challenged in a court of law. ”

With cause for concern, social activist Indira Iyengar said: “Now, violent incidents against members of the Christian community will increase in the name of reconversion. In tribal areas, members of the saffron organization are already targeting converted Christians. Now they will have a free hand to threaten people for making false claims of forced conversion and also for forcing tribal peoples to convert back to the Hindu religion. ”

MP BJP spokesman Rajnesh Agrawal said: “Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan clearly said that this bill is part of the Beti Bachao Abhiyan of the MP government. The bill is against forced conversion, not against conversion. People can change their religion just by informing the district judge. Congressional leaders are working today to mislead people to gain lost political ground. But the citizens of MP are smart enough to understand what is right or wrong. “

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