The Karnataka Assembly has passed the anti-conversion bill through a voice amidst protest by Congress MLAs in the Assembly. The Assembly on Thursday passed the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, which states, “No person shall convert or attempt to convert either directly or otherwise any other person from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire for conversions.’’
In simple terms, the bill will now attempt to restrict people’s conversion from one religion to another by force, fraud, encroachment or marriage, or misrepresentation. But, the law does not prosecute people who do wishful conversion according to the draft. Similar bills have been passed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in the past few months as well.
The penalty under the particular law will be five years jail terms and a fine of Rs 25,000 if it is attempted at converting a general caste individual. If the person who is being converted are minors, women, or persons in the SC-ST community there will be a jail term of 10 years and Rs 50,000 is considered a penalty. It also states that marriages that happen with the motive of conversion should be declared null and void if found to be by a family court or a jurisdictional court. The offence of conversion has been deemed as cognisable and non-bailable as for the law.
Anyone who wishes to convert for the same will have to notify a district magistrate two months in advance and the facilitator, the one who is doing the conversion should provide a month’s notice after which the district magistrate will investigate the real purpose. Not informing the authorities will lead to a jail term of six months to three years for those who wish to convert and a term of one to five years who are involved in facilitating the conversion.
The bill has brought in much debate from all across the state which claims to rusticate people from converting freely. This law although does not mention clamping down on people who convert by will, the law in itself does not mention how the consent and ‘real purposes’ as it claims will be proven.
This bill has been deemed unconstitutional by many activists. There were protests in the state’s capital against the bill and its constitutional validity. Hundreds of people from 40 different organiSations marched from the Mysore Bank Circle to the Freedom Park, citing the bill violates the fundamental right to religion of the citizens.
The bill comes after similar laws were passed in UP and Madhya Pradesh, addressing the concept of right-wing’s love jihad. A fictional theory that Hindu extremists have been floating. This move is seen as another step towards religious intolerance we are moving towards.
The protest was attended by Bengaluru Archbishop Peter Machado, who said, ‘Any help or concession provided by any of our Christian institutions working in the fields of education, health, senior citizen care, and orphanages, to any member not from the Christian community, can be construed as an inducement for conversion as per the Bill.’