India’s Karnataka state passes controversial law against forced conversions
Stay tunned with 24 News HD Android App
Following the model of states ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP in the North, the state of Karnataka has passed a law against forced conversions.
But civil society fears it will be a pretext for attacking the country's religious minorities.
Defending Hinduism against aggressive proselytising has become the obsession of the ruling BJP party, even though the Indian Supreme Court itself acknowledges that it is difficult to observe this reality on the ground. The latest state to legislate is Karnataka, which passed an "anti-conversion law" on Tuesday 21 December.
Any change of religion must now be reported to the authorities at least two months in advance. Families or neighbours will have the right to raise suspicions. Those found guilty of manipulating followers will face up to ten years in prison.
Christians are targeted, even if the government denies it. According to the archbishop of the capital Bangalore, Christians are often wrongly accused of forced conversions by Hindu extremists.
Brijesh Kalaapa, the spokesperson for the Congress party in Karnataka, fears an increase in religious violence. "If there are really mass conversions of Hindus to Christianity, how come the number of Christians in Karnataka is falling? They are less than 3%! The truth is that since this law has been discussed, ten attacks have taken place on Christian communities!"
According to a report by the NGO United Christian Forum, Karnataka is indeed experiencing a sharp rise in anti-Christian attacks. The latest example was on 28 November, when a Hindu extremist group broke into a church and physically attacked worshippers, without being bothered by the police.