Is Gujarat government afraid of something?
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Milli Gazette Online
23 March 2006
BJP Government in Gujarat rode to a massive two-thirds majority victory in
the Assembly Elections of December 2002.
This was mainly due to a meticulously organized pogrom on the
Muslim minority of the State which is infamously called the “Gujarat
Carnage of 2002”. There
was another aspect in their Election Manifesto which they propagated far
and wide prior to the elections, namely that an anti-Conversion Law would
be in place after they came to power.
promise they did keep when on March 26th 2003, (exactly three
years to date) they rode rough-shod over a feeble opposition and
unanimously passed. “The
Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003”.
ironically, that same day, Haren Pandya,
a former Home Minister of Gujarat and a vociferous opponent of Narendra
Modi was gunned down in the heart of the city in broad daylight.
The truth of his assassination has still not yet emerged but if one
listens to Mr. Vitthalbhai Pandya (his father), then one will easily be
convinced that the murderers of his son are not the “Muslim
terrorists” who are being accused.
strangely, inspite of passing the Act, till today, the Gujarat Government
has not been able to frame the rules needed to
govern the implementation of the Act.
its essence, the Act meant “to
provide for freedom of religion by prohibition of conversion from one
religion to another by use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means
and for the matters incidental thereto !”.
key clauses of the Act are :
anyone wanting to convert / wanting
to convert another, from one
religion to another needs to take the prior permission of the District
whoever contravenes this Act will be
punished for a period extending upto three years and also liable to a fine
which may extend to Rs. 50,000.
however, if the person happens to be
a minor or woman or a person belonging to a Schedule Caste or Schedule
Tribe, the imprisonment extends upto four years and the fine extends upto
this Act was passed, the Government of Gujarat was not able to answer
simple questions. Are there
any instances of forced conversion in Gujarat?
Has anyone complained?
“allurement” mean? If
for example, a person is promised “a more peaceful life” or a
technique in the “art of living”, in the acceptance of another
religion or way of life - does that amount to “allurement”?
And what happens if one would like to embrace Hinduism, Sikhism,
Jainism or even Buddhism ? Does
one need “permission” for that conversion ?
come certain draconian aspects of the law: Who
is the District Magistrate to sit on judgment on matters related to faith
and conscience? How does one
decide if “permission “ has to be given or not ?
What is the time limit by which the DM should give his or her
happens if one who is a “believer” would like to become a
“non-believer” – an agnostic, an atheist?
Does that amount to changing one’s religion ?
should there be more punishment for a women, dalit, adivasi or minor if
they contravene this law? Is
it because these groups are lesser than the “brahminized males” of
Christmas Day 2005, in a widely publicized debate on one of the TV
channels, the Home Minister
of Gujarat, Mr. Amit Shah was challenged as to why the rules which are
necessary for implementing this law were not being framed.
He had absolutely no answer and later on, when the media grilled
both, his department and the legal department, each began putting the
blame on the other.
obviously, the level of
rhetoric was raised at the Shabri Kumbh Mela in the Dangs from February 11th
to 13th 2006 which spewed venom and hate on the Christians.
One of the resolutions of this mela was to ensure that there was a
national law to ban conversions.
A couple of weeks later, in a
much publicized meeting of the RSS in Orissa, a similar resolution was
adopted. The questions which
has to be asked is: why did
the NDA, when in power, not
enact such a national law? Why
do they want the UPA
Government to do so now?
it is true that the law, as it is, is toothless;
it is also a fact that it is like a Damocles’ sword, with some
petty officials misusing it to threaten and intimidate the tribals and the
in Tamilnadu brought in a
similar but less draconian legislation sometime ago, but she had to eat
humble pie so very conveniently and strategically, she withdrew it.
The Gujarat Government is in a similar quandary: having
passed the legislation, they are just afraid to frame the rules for this
law. The fact is that when
they do so, they know that it will be challenged.
question that needs to be asked, “is
the Government of Gujarat really afraid that hundreds and thousands of
people from the State will actually embrace Christianity?”
If this is so, why do they not have the courage to ask the one
question which they should be asking themselves - “Why are people
wanting to convert to another faith?”
In the meantime, the
Government and its cronies continue to harass the and intimidate
Christians, Muslims and other minorities
with a terrifying regularity. They
are doing all in their power in order to “justify” a draconian law.
Government has conveniently forgotten that Article 25 of the Constitutions
guarantees every single citizen, the freedom
to practice, preach and propagate the religion
of his/her choice. Defending this
Right is the Constitutional mandate of the Chief Minister and his ilk, not
26th 2003 was indeed a bloody day in the history of Gujarat.
Civil society must speak out for justice, freedom and truth in
order to guarantee that such days will never be repeated!
we need to know…..Is the Gujarat Government afraid of something?
Fr. Cedric Prakash works with PRASHANT, Ahmedabad and may be contacted at