Anti-conversion bill introduced in Karnataka Assembly amid uproar
New Delhi: The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka introduced the controversial anti-conversion bill in the ongoing winter session of the state legislature in Belagavi on Tuesday, triggering a heated argument with the main opposition party, the Congress.
Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri got Home Minister Araga Gyanendra voted for the Bill to be laid on the Table of the House while Congress members were yet to return from the lunch break, to which the opposition reacted angrily.
Congress objected to the introduction of the bill, the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, after party president DK Shivakumar tore the document on the floor of the House.
Terming it as a violation of basic human rights, Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said, “This bill has been brought in maliciously.”
Kageri said the bill would be brought up for discussion on Wednesday, but Congress protested and eventually staged a walkout.
Heated exchanges between the ruling and the main opposition party came even as protests against the bill broke out across Karnataka. The proposal was first made by the Bommai-led government during the monsoon session of the state legislature in September.
The BJP tried to reason on the intent of the bill, only to be scoffed at by the Congress.
Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister and a senior BJP leader KS Eshwarappa said that Congress is trying to appease Muslim and Christian communities as part of its vote bank politics.
Eshwarappa stood to object to the Congress when R Ashoka, a senior BJP leader, asked his colleague to make a “Hindutva” statement in favor of the bill.
“As soon as the Revenue Minister started speaking, the Congress agreed. But then three Congress MLAs talked amongst themselves and said that we have to satisfy Muslims and Christians and then walked out,” Eshwarappa said.
“They do not want North Karnataka. They want conversion from Hindus to Muslims and Christians and make India like Pakistan where the percentage of population (of Hindus) has come down from 24% to 3%,” he said.
The bill comes at a time when there have been several attacks against the Christian community across the state.
It is also part of BJP’s effort to bring more laws in the state in line with its core ideology. The government has already enacted a law severely prohibiting the slaughter of cattle and now proposes to introduce the Special Marriage Act, which several right-wing organizations affiliated with the RSS, the BJP’s ideological parent, have proposed. The word “love jihad” is a marriage between. Hindu women and Muslim men with the intention of converting the former to Islam.
“No person may, directly or otherwise, convert or convert any other person from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or any fraudulent means or by any of these means or any other shall not attempt to or by promise of marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire for such conversion: Provided that if any person reconverts to his immediate previous religion, he shall be subject to such conversion under this Act. shall not be considered,” the proposed Bill said.
The BJP has argued that force and inducement were leading to mass conversions across the state, threatening “Indian culture”.
The bill also proposes jail time of 3-10 years for violators, including a fine of up to Rs one lakh.
Anyone wishing to convert must submit an application to the District Collector who will scrutinize the application and interview the applicant to ascertain that the conversion is not by force or inducement.
If the application is found genuine, other departments will be informed to ensure that the converted person loses benefits from his existing caste or religion and is included in the category to which the said person is converting.
Any marriage which has taken place by a man of one religion with a woman of another religion by illegal conversion or vice versa, either before or after the marriage or by converting the woman before or after the marriage, shall be annulled. Nil and void by a court of jurisdiction to hear such cases by a family court or, where a family court is not established, on a petition presented by either party against the other party to the marriage
“Making Kattaka Uttar Pradesh is not only bad for investment and job opportunities, but will destroy the rational thinking prevalent in our state. Former minister and Congress MLA Priyank Kharge said on Twitter, BJP government’s ideology is undermining the progress of the state.