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'Anti-Conversion' Bill Becomes Law in Uttarakhand

Sunday, May 6, 2018, 18:38 (IST)

Uttarakhand has become the seventh state in India to adopt a so-called "anti-conversion law", regularly used to jail Christians with groundless accusations.

Gov. Krishna Kant Paul on April 18 signed the "Freedom of Religion" bill, which the state Legislative Assembly had passed just over a month ago and allowed to progress to the governor's office.

"The bill has been signed by the governor," said Ravi Bijarniya, assistant director for information in the governor's office.

Although supposedly aimed at preventing only "forced or fraudulent conversions", in reality such laws are routinely used to prevent all conversions, including ones through free choice and especially conversions to minority religions such as Christianity.

Uttarakhand now joins Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand as states that have adopted anti-conversion bills.

"It fails the very basic test of explaining to the world the need for having such a law," Dr John Dayal, spokesman for the United Christian Forum and the All India Catholic Union, told Morning Star News.

"There is no forcible or fraudulent conversion in the state to the Christian or Muslim or Sikh faiths shown either by the Census data or by the police statistics. In the absence of such reality, the only explanation can be that it is to threaten the minority communities or to curb the freedom of religion of the Dalit and backward communities whose rights are being crushed by the upper castes which exercise political power in the state," he added.