Anti-conversion bill: Bengaluru Archbishop opposes proposed law

The Archbishop also asked the government to let go of any attempt to survey churches and missionaries.
The statements come even as Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continue to insist on introducing the law that restricts and penalises forcible conversions. (PTI)
The statements come even as Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continue to insist on introducing the law that restricts and penalises forcible conversions. (PTI)
Published on Nov 20, 2021 12:38 AM IST
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ByHT Correspondent, Bengaluru

Archbishop of Bengaluru Reverend Peter Machado on Friday urged the Basavaraj Bommai-led government not to bring in the proposed anti-conversion bill as it was “undesirable and discriminatory”.

“The entire Christian community in Karnataka opposes the proposal of (the) Anti-Conversion Bill in one voice and question(s) the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court directives are in place to monitor any aberration of the existing laws,” Machado said.

The statements come even as Bommai and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continue to insist on introducing the law that restricts and penalises forcible conversions.

Kota Shrinivas Poojari, the minister for Social Welfare, Backward Classes Welfare Department, Dinakar Keshav Shetty, the chairman of the committee and Goolihatti Shekar could not be reached for comment.

The issue of forcible conversions revived momentum after BJP legislator Goolihatti Shekar made an appeal to stop the practice to which his mother, he claimed, had also fallen “victim”. He had claimed that people from marginalised communities and even muslims were converted or they were slapped with false charges. He said that around 15,000-20,000 people in his constituency were possibly converted. Shekar had presided over an event in which at least five families “were brought back” into the Hindu fold, including his mother--a practice that is commonly referred to as “Ghar Wapsi”.

The Archbishop also asked the government to let go of any attempt to survey churches and missionaries.

“The Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department of Government of Karnataka have issued an order to conduct a survey of both official and non-official Christian Missionaries and the institutions and establishments functioning in the state. When all the relevant data is already available (through the census) with the government, why do we need yet another futile exercise?” Machado said on Friday in a statement. He said that such an exercise would be detrimental to the peace and harmony of the state. “Why only Christian community is targeted and marked for this arbitrary, fallacious and illogical move? what is the motive that is driving them to do so?” he wrote.

The legislative committee on Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare has ordered a survey of authorised and unauthorised churches and their personnel, HT had reported on October 15.

The developments come at a time when there has been hate crimes reported from across the state and country with fundamentalist groups mobilising support for such causes to “safeguard” their respective religions.

Several other states in the country have introduced laws to prevent forced conversions. There have been allegations, especially against large christian missionaries, who lure weak, oppressed and other people to convert with the promise of monetary and other rewards.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021