National

Conversion is crime in Modi's Gujarat

Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act break religious freedom and contradicts rights protected within international agreements and the Indian Constitution.

Ahmedabad: The Dahod taluka police station in Gujarat registered an offence under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act after residents of Kharod village alleged that their religious sentiments had been hurt and that they had been pressurised into converting to Christianity.

The offence was filed by a resident of Kharod village Dariyasinh Vaadi on 12 July. Vaadi alleged that members of Christian community residing in his village had been pressurising him to convert to Christianity. Vaadi claimed that to harass him and his community, part of a land that they used to perform the last rites of their community members was being tilled by the accused.

The first information report also alleged that tombstones, laid by the Vaadi community on the land, were being uprooted by the accused. “An offense was registered under sections 295 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code and the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act,” Dahod taluka police sub-inspector K G Chaudhary said. The offense mentions Eric Nisarta, his son Ramu, Shantilal and his son Ramesh as accused in the case.

Chaudhary said the dispute of land tilling had been raised by the village sarpanch earlier too in an application. “The ground used by Vaadi community to perform their last rites and that being tilled by the accused are both government property,” Chaudhary said.

Earlier Jamaat-e-Islami Hind issued a press release to cancel Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act with the following text: New Delhi: Janab Nusrat Ali, Secretary General, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has demanded Gujarat government to revoke original act, Gujarat freedom of Religion Act, better known as Anti-Conversion Bill, which was adopted in 2003.

Reacting on Gujarat government's recent decision to withdraw amendment in the said Bill, Mr Nusrat Ali articulated that the original act should completely be eliminated as it affected the Right to freedom of religion and belief and it can be misused. 'A person should be free to adopt any religion or belief with no intervention, and he or she should be provided congenial environment for adoption,' he added.

He called upon for a full discussion on the act either for fully amendment or revocation, as other states just obliges a person, getting converted, to inform the government, whereas in Gujarat, one has to seek permission of the government, this law actually serves to break religious freedom and contradicts rights protected within international agreements and the Indian Constitution as mentioned in the Articles 25 to 30 of the Indian Constitution and in the Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  [End of Statement]

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2010 on page no. 10

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