The Haryana Assembly on Tuesday passed a Bill against religious conversions amid a walkout by the Congress, PTI reported.
The Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2020, was introduced in the Assembly on March 4 after getting a clearance from the state Cabinet on February 9.
According to the Bill, any case of conversion done through allurement, use of force, fraudulent means or coercion, can invite imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, according to PTI.
The Bill says that whoever converts or attempts to convert a minor, a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, will be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than four years. This period can be extended up to 10 years along with a fine of not less than Rs 3 lakh.
The onus of proof lies on the accused person, according to the Bill, The Indian Express reported.
Similar Bills have already been cleared in the states ruled by the Bhartiya Janata Party, including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The Bills are aimed at tackling “love jihad” – a conspiracy theory espoused by Hindutva activists, claiming that Muslim men lure Hindu women to marry them in order to later convert them to Islam.
The term is being used despite the BJP-led Centre’s statement in Lok Sabha in February 2020 that no “case of ‘love jihad’ has been reported by any of the central agencies”.
On Tuesday, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Leader of Opposition in the Haryana Assembly, had said that existing laws already contain provisions of punishment for forcible conversions and there was no need to bring a fresh law.
Congress leader Kiran Choudhary said that the passing of the Bill was a black chapter in Haryana’s history.
“This Bill will deepen the communal divide,” Choudhary said, according to PTI. “This Bill is scary. It can have grave consequences in future.”
On March 4, Congress MLA Dr Raghuvir Singh Kadian was suspended from the Haryana Assembly after he tore a copy of the anti-conversion Bill and then refused to apologise, according to The Indian Express.
Kadian had alleged that the Bill was part of a “hidden agenda” of the state government to create a divide in the society on the basis of religion.
However, BJP legislators in the House had refuted Kadian’s allegations saying there was no particular religion named or targeted in the Bill.