Are anti-conversion laws the solution?

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2014 00:59 IST

Those claiming to convert over 200 Muslims in Agra to Hinduism have been booked by the local police for promoting enmity between two groups on the grounds of religion and defrauding them by allegedly offering certain allurements, and not under any anti-conversion laws.

While specific statutes in Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh exist to stop miscreants from inducing people to convert using fraudulent means, there is no anti-conversion law in Uttar Pradesh. In states where there is no anti-conversion law, police generally book those resorting to forcible or fraudulent conversions under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings), and 505(2) and 505(3) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of the Indian Penal Code. Punishment under these sections ranges from three to five years in jail, along with a fine.

Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees freedom to all persons to preach, practise and propagate the religion of their choice, but this would not include forcible or fraudulent conversions. This provision is in tune with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Right, which says that everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith.

Anti-conversion laws have come under fire from various human rights watchdogs including the UN “Harassment and violence against religious minorities appears to be more pronounced in states that have adopted ‘Freedom of Religion Acts or are considering such laws,” the UN said in a recent report.

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