2006-05-20 15:22:52

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.

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