The Congress government in Karnataka on Thursday decided to repeal the anti-conversion law passed during the previous Bharatiya Janata Party regime, NDTV reported.
It also approved the revision of Kannada and Social Science textbooks by removing the chapters on Rashtriya Swamsevakh Sangh founder KB Hedgewar and Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar, among others, according to PTI.
The decisions were taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
The anti-conversion law was first introduced through an ordinance in May last year. It was passed by the erstwhile Basavraj Bommai government in the state Assembly in September.
The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act prohibited “conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage”. Under the law, a person who engages in “forced conversion” would be punished with three to five years imprisonment. Forced conversions of members from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities would lead to a jail term of three to 10 years and a fine of Rs 50,000.
Karnataka was among the several BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat that have passed laws banning forced conversions. However, the Bill in Karnataka was more stringent than the ones in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh which have a minimum jail term of one year.
The law had become a flashpoint between the BJP and the Congress, which had contended that it was a tool for harassing minorities.
On Thursday, the BJP criticised Congress’ move, saying that it exposes the “anti-Hindu” agenda of the party.
“Do you want Hindus to be wiped out?” BJP leader and former Union Minister BR Patil tweeted. “Conversion mafia has influenced Siddaramaiah and his Cabinet to withdraw the ‘anti-conversion law’ which was introduced by BJP.”
BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi said that the Congress is the “new Muslim league” and claimed that “it will go to any extent to hurt Hindus”.
Chapters on RSS founder, VD Savarkar to be removed
The Karnataka Cabinet on Thursday approved the revision of Kannada and Social Science textbooks of Classes 6 to 10 in the state, for the current academic year by removing the chapters on Hedgewar and Savarkar, among others.
It also consented to adding chapters on social reformer Savitribai Phule, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters to her daughter Indira Gandhi and poetry on former Law Minister BR Ambedkar, according to PTI.
In April last year, several teachers and the Congress had objected to the alleged glorification of Savarkar in a Class 8 Kannada textbook.
A paragraph in the book said: “There was not even a keyhole in the cell where Savarkar was incarcerated. But, bulbul birds used to visit the room and Savarkar used to sit on their wings and fly out and visit the motherland every day.”