Madhya Pradesh cabinet okays bill against forced conversions
The state Cabinet on Saturday approved the Madhya Pradesh Dharm Swatantrey (Freedom of Religion Act) 2020 with a provision for a maximum of 10 years in jail for anyone “forcing women, minors, and people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe to undergo religious conversion”.
The draft bill says Ghar Wapsi, or conversion to Hinduism, will not be treated as conversion. “Under this legislation, the re-conversion to the ancestral religion will not be treated as conversion,” said the draft.
The proposed legislation will replace the 1968 Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, said state home minister Narottam Mishra.
He said the bill seeks to prohibit religious conversions or an attempt of conversion by means of misrepresentation, allurement, threat, undue influence, coercion, marriage, and any other fraudulent means.
Mishra said it provides for one to 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of 1 lakh for conversions.
“The forceful conversions and marriages will be a cognisable offence and non-bailable. There will be a provision for declaring such marriages null and void. Before conversion, the person and religious gurus have to inform district magistrate at least 60 days prior,” said Mishra
The bill provides for a five-year jail term for religious gurus, who perform conversion ceremonies, says the draft.