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Opinion

Government MP’s bill against forced conversions exempts reconversions

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Madhya Pradesh’s cabinet on Saturday approved a bill to regulate interreligious marriages in the state that provides a 10-year prison sentence for “ forcing ” women, minors, and people from scheduled castes and tribes to submit to a religious conversion, while exempting the conversion to religion of the parents of its scope.

The proposed law called Madhya Pradesh Dharmik Swatantrata (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2020 says that ‘Paitrik Dharm me Wapsi’ 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.

Giving the reason for this clause, the Interior Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Nirottam Mishra, said that the conversion will not be a punishable offense under this law because it is more the realization of a mistake than a crime.

The proposed legislation will replace the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, and is stricter than the similar law imposed by the Uttar Pradesh government through an Ordinance.

The UP law does not establish parental property rights for the children of inter-religious marriages, monthly maintenance and a fine of Rs 50,000 for inter-religious marriage without the permission of the district magistrate. In UP, the fine is 25,000 rupees. The jail sentence in the two laws is the same, an analysis of the proposed laws of the two neighboring states shows.

Mishra 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. Conspiracy and (the act of) instigating a person for conversion has also been prohibited. ”

Mishra said the bill has a penalty provision of one to 10 years in prison and a minimum fine of 1 lakh rupees for conversions.

According to the draft of the approved bill, “The forced conversion of women, minors, recognized castes and programmed tribes will carry a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a minimum fine of 50,000 rupees. Mass forced conversion will attract 5-10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. The burden of proof will fall on the accused. ”

“Conversions and forced marriages will be a recognizable offense and will not be subject to bail. There will be a provision to declare forced interreligious marriages and forced conversions null and void. Before conversion, the individual and religious gurus must inform the district magistrate at least 60 days prior to the scheduled date of the marriage. Violation of this rule will bring 3-5 years in jail and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000 ”, according to the approved draft of the bill.

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Mishra said: “The MP government has made 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.

Retired Superior Court Judge AK Gohil said: “The bill has no provision to deal with past cases of forced conversions and there is 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. ”

MP’s Congressional Committee spokesperson Narendra Saluja said: “We welcome this bill, but the provisions of this bill serve the BJP agenda rather than help 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 ‘Love-Jihad.’ . BJP leaders are targeting the Muslim community with this bill. If Love-Jihad is really a big problem and a crime, then 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. ”

Expressing concern about the reconversions, the social activist Indira Iyengar said: “Now, violent incidents against the members of the Christian community will increase in the name of the reconversion. In tribal areas, members of the saffron organization are already targeting converted Christians. Now, they will go to work to threaten people with making false claims of forced conversion and will also force the tribes to reconvert to the Hindu religion. ”

MP BJP spokesman Rajnesh Agrawal said: “Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan clearly stated that this bill is part of the MP government’s Beti Bachao Abhiyan. The bill is against forced conversions and not against conversions. 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 right and wrong. “

Hindustan Times

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