Forcible religious conversion

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    In News

    • The  Supreme Court recently said that while charity is welcome, its purpose should not be to convert the gullible.

    More about the news

    • Issue:
      • The court was examining the “very serious issue” of forcible or deceitful conversions in the country.
    • Apex Court’s opinion:
      • Examining the intentions of charity:
        • The Supreme Court said that the purpose of charity should not be conversion. 
        • The court said it would examine such veiled intentions behind religious conversions through allurement by offering food, medicines, treatment, etc.
        • Everybody has a right to choose their religion. But that should not be by luring, by giving some aid.
      • Differentiating the true belief:
        • As stated by the court, conversion on the basis of a voluntarily felt belief in the deity of a different faith is different from belief gained through allurement.
    • Centre’s opinion:
      • Solicitor General for the Centre, said that, a neutral authority will decide whether it is in lieu of grains, medicines, treatment offered that a person is converting or whether there is a religious or philosophical change of heart.
    • Background:
      • Union government has also told the Supreme Court that it is “cognisant of the menace” of forced conversions and will take “appropriate steps” to deal with it.
      • Court has also directed the Centre to provide details of anti-conversion laws in various States and other materials.

    Right to Freedom of religion in India

    • The Indian Constitution allows individuals the freedom to live by their religious beliefs and practices as they interpret these. 
    • In keeping with this idea of religious freedom for all, India also adopted a strategy of separating the power of religion and the power of the State
    • Constitutional Provisions:
      • Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
      • Article 26:  Freedom to manage religious affairs
      • Article 27: Freedom to pay taxes for promotion of any particular religion
      • Article 28: Freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.

    Conversions & conflict with the right to freedom to religion

    • The right to freedom to religion, and more importantly the right to conscience of all citizens of the country, is an extremely cherished and valuable rights which ought to be protected by the Executive and the Legislature.
    • But, “the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert people to a particular religion”.

    Legislation against Forced Conversions in India

    • About the regulation of Conversions in India:
      • In 1954, Parliament took up for consideration the Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill
      • Six years later, another law, the Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill, 1960, was proposed to stop conversion. 
        • Both were dropped for want of support. 
    • State Laws:
    • There are a few states (Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand) which have enacted upon anti-conversion law in India.
    • Aim:
      • The basic aim of the legislation was to prevent the individual and communities from converting one’s religion of their forefathers to another religion mainly weaker or influential sectors of society namely women, children, backward classes and untouchables. 
    • Major Criticisms 
      • The Anti-Conversion law enacted a restriction on conversion to one’s choice of religion, practice, propagate and promote so converted religion and thereby infringes the right to privacy of individuals.
      • Religious leaders of minority communities faced apprehension of being arrested and prosecuted under anti-conversion law. 
        • The report states: In most cases, Christians have been forced to shut down their places of worship and stop assembling for their Sunday prayers.
    • Even though their proposed purpose is to protect the minorities it has a detrimental impact on our society. 
    • It has also been criticised that such acts & bills are against the Constitution as there is an attempt to disturb peace in the country and divert public attention for political reasons.

    Conclusion and Way ahead

    • There may be freedom of religion but there may not be freedom of religion by forced conversion and Everybody has the right to choose their religion, but not by forced conversion or by giving temptation.