Karnataka: Christian groups, Opposition slam passage of anti-conversion bill
With just a day to go before Christmas, the passage of the anti-conversion bill in the Karnataka assembly on Thursday has dampened spirits of the most important day of the year for the community, members of the church said.
“We are really disappointed and sad that the government has passed this bill in the assembly in spite of our best efforts to reach out to the authorities to persuade them that it is not a good measure. It has hurt the community very much for all the services we have rendered to the community and to the nation. This bill has come as a severe blow to all our efforts and has dampened our spirits during the Christmas season,” JA Kanthraj, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bangalore, told Hindustan Times on Thursday.
The statements come on the day the Basvaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government managed to get the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 or anti-conversion bill passed in the lower house of the state legislature in the ongoing winter session in Belagavi, about 505 kms from Bengaluru.
There have been a spate of attacks against members of the Christian community across several parts of Karnataka, including an incident reported on Thursday in Chikkaballapur district, about 60 kms from Bengaluru.
Several members of the community as well as civil society have opposed the bill and expressed their intent to fight it out in court if it passes through the legislative council as well.
“We will wait for final passage of the bill and then take the next step after consulting all our religious leaders,” Kantharaj said.
The All India Lawyer’s Association for Justice (AILAJ) has called the bill unconstitutional.
In a statement on Wednesday, Maitreyi Krishnan, co-convenor of AILAJ, said the bill was being introduced with “intent to stoke communal tensions.”
The statement added that “the Bill only furthers communal tension and creates a divide in a society that is meant to be bound by the tenets of fraternity and secularism. The Bill strikes at the very heart of equality, liberty, and fraternity as envisaged in the Constitution, and must be immediately withdrawn.”
The Congress, the principal opposition in Karnataka, put a stiff resistance against the passage of the bill but was on the backfoot after the BJP said that it was the Siddaramaiah-led state government in 2016 which had proposed to bring in the controversial bill.
“Anti-conversion bill is the brainchild of @RSSorg. RSS followers had written a petition in 2009 to the law commission to draft anti-conversion bill when @BSYBJP was CM. Our govt had rejected that draft bill. Now @BJP4Karnataka has given life to it,” Siddaramaiah said in a twitter post.
The Congress, nonetheless, opposed the bill and its implementation which it said was unconstitutional and inhuman.
“@BJP4Karnataka leaders are spreading false news about the population of Hindus declining and that of Muslims & Christians increasing. The truth can be reviewed by seeing 2001 and 2011 census data,” Siddaramaiah said in a post on Twitter.
“Art 21 & 25 of Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and interfaith marriage. Then how can @BJP4Karnataka govt decide against it? For the same reason, Gujarat High Court has given a stay order for anti-conversion law that was enacted in Gujarat,” he said, adding that it was “cut & paste” from laws made in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.