Indian Bishops Welcome Rajasthan Governor's Refusal Of Anti-Conversion Bill
The Governor of western India’s Rajasthan state has turned down the draconic Religious
Freedom Bill hurriedly passed by the state assembly. Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes,
Secretary general of the Catholic bishops conference of India, CBCI, has welcomed
the action saying “it was against human rights and the citizen’s rights enshrined
in the Indian Constitution.” Bishop Oswald Lewis of the state capital Jaipur, also
agreed saying: "It is against the Indian Constitution and curtails a person’s freedom.
We feel that it will be misused against us." Governor Pratibha Patil has returned
the bill to the state government for its re-consideration, stating that its provisions
were such that they would affect the rights of citizens to freedom of religion. She
had also sent a note suggesting that the bill be forwarded to Indian President A.P.J.
Abdul Kalam, if the state government thought it fit. The controversial anti-conversion
was passed by the Rajasthan assembly by voice vote on April 7, the last day of the
budget session of the state assembly. Ironically, called the Freedom of Religion
Bill, it makes conversion a non-bailable offence, allowing for the immediate arrest
of the offender even before the investigation of the offence. The bill has been slammed
by human rights groups and the opposition Congress. The bill prevents conversion
from one religion to another but is so cleverly worded that it does not stop one from
reconverting to the religion of one's ancestors. Other states that have passed such
laws are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. Jharkhand
also reportedly plans to have such a law.