Haryana Introduces Bill to Stop Forcible Conversion, Congress Opposes

The anti-conversion bill introduced by the Haryana government on Friday (March 4) aims to prevent religious conversions “through force, undue influence or allurement”. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the bill.

In a significant political development on Friday (March 4), Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana introduced an anti-conversion bill in the assembly aimed at preventing religious conversions in the state “through force, undue influence or allurement”.

The Congress party vociferously opposed the bill.

As per the provisions of the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2022, the accused has to establish that there was no mala fide intention behind the conversion. But, if conversion is established to be done by “allurement, use of force, fraudulent means of coercion”, then there is a provision of imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh.

Introducing the bill in the assembly, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said that conversion by “allurement, use of force, fraudulent means” is dangerous for the country and hence must be checked. The bill does not mention any religion by name and only aims to prevent conversions by the use of force or fraudulent means.

The Congress leader Raghuvir Singh Kadian tore a copy of the bill on the floor of the assembly.

Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, all BJP ruled states, have passed similar bills to check fraudulent conversion in the state.

The bill’s statements of objectives and reasons read, “… the Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion. However, the individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize; for the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted. Still, there have been umpteen cases of religious conversions, both mass and individual. Obviously, such incidents have been hotly debated, more so in a multi-religious society, such as ours. The presence of pseudo-social organizations with a hidden agenda to convert the vulnerable sections of other religions. There have been instances when gullible people have been converted by offering allurement or under undue influence. Some have been forced to convert to other religions.”

When the Congress party accused the BJP government of creating a communal divide, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar defended the bill saying no religion was mentioned by name in the bill and it only aims to check fraudulent and forceful conversion.

In a lighter vein, CM Khattar, pointing towards the Opposition benches, said, “All the people sitting on these benches can get their religion converted to whichever one they want to.”

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the bill introduced by the Haryana government and criticised the Congress party for opposing it. Dr Surendra Jain, VHP Joint General Secretary, said, “This Congress is no longer Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress but Christian Sonia’s Congress. Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress had introduced anti-conversion bills in many states but Sonia’s Congress is determined to kill such bills.”

He further said that those involved in fraudulent conversions have the active support of terrorists and anti-nationals. He said, “Such conversions have reduced Hindus to minorities in many places and there is no security to their lives, businesses and family members.”

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