After Ram Madhav’s tweet, Arunachal govt says no plan to repeal anti-conversion law
Days after Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu announced he will repeal a four-decade-old anti-conversion law, the BJP government ruling the state seems to be having second thoughts.
“He never said it will be repealed. We will examine it in the Cabinet, take it up for discussion in the Assembly, talk to all sections of the people of the state and then decide if it needs to be repealed,” Bamang Felix, minister for parliamentary affairs and information and public relations said.
This comes after Ram Madhav, the BJP general secretary in-charge of the North-East, said in a tweet on Friday morning that the chief minister had not said that the law would be repealed.
“There is no truth in it. The CM has clearly stated that a wide ranging consultation about its efficacy will be undertaken, not its repeal. As far as I know, there is no such proposal to repeal the 978 Act,” the tweet said.
Madhav was replying to another tweet by academic Makarand R Paranjape, who said: “Terrible civilisational, if not tactical, error: instead of “wooing” the 31%, they will lose the whole state?”
Arunchal Pradesh’s population is 30.26 % Christian, 29.04 % Hindu and 26.2 % other religions, according to the 2011 census.
The move to repeal the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act framed in 1978, besides incensing the Hindu rightwing supporters of the BJP, who came out on social media against the move, also did not go down well with indigenous groups who call conversions an attack on their faith and traditions.
“We are opposing the move to repeal the law for it is detrimental to the interests of the indigenous groups,” said Pai Dawe, president of the Nyishi Indigenous Faiths and Cultural Society (NIFCS), an organization representing Nyishis, the largest ethnic group in the state. “Even with the law, nothing could be done to stop conversion. About 60 percent of the Nyishis have converted to Christianity over the years,” he said, adding that they will demand that the law be “strictly enforced in the state”.
The Christian groups hope Khandu will stand by his words.
“India is a secular country. This law targets Christianity. Arunachal is the only state in the North-East which has such a law,” said Toko Teki, the General Secretary of the Arunachal Christian Forum. “The law obstructs religious freedom. It has no place in a democracy,” he said, adding that Khandu’s statement changed his perception of the BJP, which was seen as “an anti-Christian, non-minority friendly party.”
On June 28, while speaking at a function to mark the 10th death anniversary of a a Benedictine missionary, Khandu said, “The law could undermine secularism and is probably targeted towards Christians.” The law would be brought before the next assembly session for repeal as “it could be misused in future by irresponsible officials”, he added.