Karnataka assembly passes contentious anti-conversion bill, Cong on backfoot during debate

Updated on Dec 23, 2021 06:23 PM IST

The Basavaraj Bommai government said the legislation had been initiated by the grand old party with Siddaramaiah in the chief minister’s chair. The ruling camp also placed documents to support its claim before the House.

File photo of the Karnataka assembly.
File photo of the Karnataka assembly.
By, New Delhi

The Karnataka Assembly on Thursday passed the contentious anti-conversion bill, titled ‘Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021’, amid uproar from opposition b.

Minister Ashwathnarayan said this was a much-awaited bill that will create harmony in society. “It will facilitate transparency and accountability. It is a forward-looking bill that will address many challenges being currently faced,” the minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI on the legislation's passage in the assembly. 

During discussion on the bill, the Opposition Congress seemed to be on a back foot with the Basavaraj Bommai-led government claiming the legislation had been initiated by the grand old party with Siddaramaiah in the chief minister’s chair. The ruling camp also placed documents to support its claim before the House.

While Siddaramaiah, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly, initially refuted the charge, he later went through the records in the speaker's office, following which he accepted that as the CM he had only asked a draft bill in this regard to be placed before the cabinet and that no decision was taken on the same.

Also read | Attacks on Christian groups expose fault lines in Karnataka

Stating that the Congress vehemently opposed the bill in its present form that it said was "anti people", "inhuman", "anti constitutional", "anti poor" and "draconian", the senior Congress leader said the bill should not be passed for any reason and should be withdrawn by the government.

Also read | Explainer: Karnataka anti-conversion law: The legality of other such laws

Earlier in the day, moving the bill for consideration, home minister Araga Jnanendra said the law was not against any religion and eight states have passed and are implementing such a law and Karnataka would become the ninth one. 

Noting that religious conversion has become a menace and quoting example of Hosadurga MLA Goolihatti Shekhar's recent statement that his mother has been converted to Christianity, the minister said the issue of conversion has created friction in the society, especially in rural areas, and there has been incidents of suicide in Udupi and Mangaluru recently in cases related to conversion.

The bill provides for protection of right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means.

(With inputs from agencies)

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