Dalit bodies protest against HP’s Anti-conversion law

Published on Sep 21, 2022 12:46 AM IST

Over a dozen Dalit organisations participated in the protests. CPI (M) legislator Rakesh Singha led the protesters

Himachal Pradesh Dalit Soshan Mukti Manch members during a protest rally against the anti-conversion bill in Shimla on Tuesday. (Deepak Sansta / HT)
Himachal Pradesh Dalit Soshan Mukti Manch members during a protest rally against the anti-conversion bill in Shimla on Tuesday. (Deepak Sansta / HT)

Dalits from different parts of the state, under the banner of Dalit Mukta Morcha, staged a protest against Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2022 and demanded that the governor not give his accent to the bill passed by the HP legislative assembly.

Over a dozen Dalit organisations participated in the protests. CPI (M) legislator Rakesh Singha led the protest. “The legislation done by the legislative assembly through amendment is a violation of the constitution and rights of the deprived sections of the society,” he said.

“We are seeking the intervention of the governor. The law passed by the HP assembly has snatched the right of caste-based reservation. This right is only with the president of India where some cast could be added and removed under article 341 of the Constitution but unfortunately, the law was passed by the HP assembly on the final day of the monsoon session this year,” Singha said.

The HP assembly has passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2022 unanimously with a voice vote during the monsoon session in August this year. The amendment to the bill was brought to curb illegal religious conversions in HP and enacted a higher jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of a maximum of 2 lakh. This law was enacted during the time of the government of Virbhadra Singh in 2012 and the present government made the law more stringent with the amendment. Investigation in such cases will be done by an officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector. The provisions have been made non-bailable and cognizable. This also implies that once a Hindu changes his religion he will not be able to get the right of reservations if any. According to the amendment an individual will have to submit a declaration that he or she will not take benefits based on his previous religion and it would be his or her choice to give the declaration.

On being asked about the Dalit protest over providing Tribal status to the Hattee community, he said we are only demanding clarification on how the rights of the scheduled caste people will be protected.

“We are not against the Tribal status to Hattee community, the question is what will happen to the rights of the Dalits and implementation of Atrocity Act after the tribal status was accorded to the people in Sirmaur,” Singha added.

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