Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra on Tuesday tabled the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s anti-conversion Bill in the state Assembly amidst protests by the Opposition Congress, ANI reported.
The Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, was approved by the state Cabinet on Monday.
Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri said that the Bill will be discussed on Wednesday.
Congress leader DK Shivakumar tore a copy of the Bill in the House, ANI reported.
Former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah alleged that the Bill was illegal as it violated the Article 21 (right to life and liberty) and Article 25 (freedom of practicing a religion) of the Constitution, The News Minute reported.
The draft Bill proposes for a maximum punishment of a jail term of 10 years for forcible religious conversion of women, minors and people from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, according to The Indian Express. The Bill says that “conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage’’ is prohibited.
The Basavaraj Bommai-led Cabinet began discussing an anti-conversion law in September. The chief minister had claimed on September 29 that forcible religious conversions had become rampant in the state.
However, a report released by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties on December 14 listed 39 incidents of violence against Christians in Karnataka between January and November. The report noted that the state has seen a sharp increase in violent attacks led by Hindutva groups on Christians during prayer meetings.
The human rights organisation’s report also found that the police in Karnataka had colluded with Hindutva groups that attacked Christian worshippers in the state.
Bharatiya Janata Party-led state governments in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have enacted anti-conversion laws since last year to penalise “love jihad”. The pejorative term has been used by Hindutva outfits to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam.
On August 19, the Gujarat High Court had ordered a stay on several sections of the state’s law, including one that defined interfaith marriage as a reason for forceful conversion. The state government has said that it will approach the Supreme Court against the order.