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Glimpse of Anti-Conversion Law



If you aid fellow non-Christians in kind or in cash and they later became Christian, then you are putting yourself into a serious trouble. You could be either imprisoned or fined. Yes! It’s true. This is feasible under anti-conversion law.
It is even possible in a state without anti-conversion law. Rev. Chander Mani Khanna was arrested few weeks before Christmas last year; after a video in youtube showed Rev. Khanna baptizing seven young men and women in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a state which doesn’t have anti-conversion law in force.
Sitting inside the class room and listening to the professor walking me through ‘right to freedom of religion’ and ‘right to equality’, I felt disturbed as a Christian. It sends down shiver down my spine and provoked my inquisitiveness. I began to quiz myself, why a country like India, who is respected in the international community for its cultural and religious diversity allow to slur its face with a rot like anti-conversion law, while article 25 of the Indian constitution guarantees freedom to profess and propagate one’s faith? I began to research and study more on this topic. Mention may be made here, Saadiya Suleman, for insightful thoughts.
Anti-conversion laws have been passed in 7 of the Indian states, (1) Orissa (2) Madhya Pradesh (3) Chhattisgarh (4) Himachal Pradesh (5) Gujarat (6) Arunachal Pradesh and (7) Rajasthan. The 8th state, Jharkhand is also expected to pass an anti-conversion law in the days to come.
The state of Madhya Pradesh has enacted Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1967. And by the time the Madhya Pradesh Act was passed, state of Orissa had already passed a similar legislation called the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967. Similarly legislation was passed in our neighboring state Arunachal Pradesh as the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978. The state of Chhattisgarh came into existence in the year 2000; it adopted the Madhya Pradesh Act of 1968 by the name of Chattisgarh Freedom of Religion Act, 1968. Then came the now repealed, Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, 2002. Gujarat followed suit in 2003 with the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act. The year 2006 witnessed the states of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh adopting such legislations, Rajasthan with the Rajasthan Dharma Swatantraya (freedom of religion act) Act and Himachal Pradesh with the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act.
The prima-facie of all these laws seems to foster the right to freedom of religion however the inset of all these laws prohibits conversion on following terms: No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religion to another by use of ‘force’ or by ‘inducement’ or by any ‘fraudulent’ means, nor shall any person abet any such conversion.
It is indeed true that conversion brought by violence or other illegitimate means of coercion violate the freedom of religion protected by the Indian Constitution. This cannot be permitted. However the language adopted by these laws goes far beyond protecting this fundamental right.

By Force: All the anti-conversion laws share a common definition of force, “Force shall include show of force or threat or injury or threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication.”
It is uncertain as to how this definition could be put into practice. For instance, if a religion teaches that non-adherents risk divine displeasure, teaching this article of faith may constitute an act of force under the Act.
The overtly broad definition of force unjustifiably impinges on interaction between potential converts and those seeking to bring about their conversion. A person engaging another in order to bring about his or her conversion cannot inform the potential convert what the religion teach about non-adherents. This may be contrary to the freedom to change one’s religion if such information is withheld.

By Allurement: ‘Allurement’ as per the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gurjarat and Rajasthan  and now repealed Tamil Nadu Act means, offer of any temptation in the form of (1) any gift or gratification, wither in cash or in kind; (2) grant of any material benefits, either monetary or otherwise.
Himachal, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh laws are worded differently: inducement shall include the offer of any gifts or gratification, either in cash or in kind and shall also include the grant of any benefits, either pecuniary or otherwise. The High Court of Orissa strucked down this definition for being too vague and wide scope (in Hyde v State of Orissa) but the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Orissa Act (in Stainiskaus v Madhya Pradesh).
Christians have expressed concern over the possible broad scope of ‘allurement’ and ‘inducement’. Charitable acts which are fundamental to Christians may be interpreted as ‘temptation’ intended to induce conversion. Charitable acts are also fundamental to other religions and such broad interpretation may restrict the freedom of its adherent to practice their religion or religious belief. It is imaginable that provision of education facilities, medical care, etc. by various religions may be interpreted as ‘temptation’ to convert.

By Fraudulent Means: According to Gujarat and Rajasthan Act, ‘fraudulent means’ includes misrepresentation or any other fraudulent contrivance.
Himachal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal and Chhattisgargh acts states: Fraud shall include misrepresentation or any other fraudulent contrivances.
The vagueness of this definition is clear again. For instance, if he/she was told that on converting he/she would feel closer to God but on conversion the converted he/she did not feel the expected degree of spirituality, than he/she have been misrepresented.
How could the law enforcement agencies differentiate legitimate and illegitimate conversion?
Allegation was levied on Pastor Khana that, he had offered money to the Muslims to convert them to Christian. The video clips which was used as evidence to charge Rev. Khanna did not show any money been offered. It was clarified that such allegations are baseless and untrue, by pastor. He was also charged with hurting religious sentiment. Likewise, Christian workers continue to face harassment and persecution in secular India!
These anti-conversion laws greatly favor Hinduism over minority religion both by design and implication. It challenges the fundamental right of right to freedom of religion – freedom of conscience, practice, profess and propagate one’s religion. It is a smack on the face of Indian secularism.
Arunachal Pradesh is the only state in the north-east which has anti conversion law. However it is as good as dead. We may not see such law been enacted in our state Nagaland but possibility of passing such law is our neighboring state Manipur is possible, with cow slaughter already been banned  and one of its MP at New Delhi openly declaring that Manipur is a Hindu state, on a national television channel.

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