Jaipur, 7 April (AKI/Asian Age) – Rajasthan, India’s largest state, ruled by the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), enacted a law on Friday to stop religious conversions by means of allurement, greed or pressure. The state Assembly (parliament) passed the Religious Freedom Bill amid protests by the oppposition Congress party. Minority communities and human rights groups have also opposed the law.
The Assembly passed an amended version of the law with cosmetic changes. The new law contains stringent provisions and, under the law, anyone found engaging in conversion activities by means prohibited by the new law will be liable to be jailed for between two and five years. The act also has a provision to impose a fine of up to 1,124 dollars. It will be a non-bailable offence.
The issue rocked the state Assembly where Congress members opposed it, saying it had been introduced to target the minority communities, and had been formulated on the behest of Hindu radical organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). After a furore in the parliament that last over an hour, Congress members staged a walkout.
The recent coverage of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who was threatened with a death sentence for apostacy from Islam, makes a compelling comparison with this story (from the AKI news agency) about similar issues in India.
As is the case in several Islamic countries, the religious fundamentalists in India–here, Hindu–take a dim view of conversion away from what’s seen as “the right religion.” Hindu violence against religious missionaries, primarily Christian, but also including others, does get reported in the Indian media, but is rarely picked up in the Western media unless it involves Westerners.
The problem, clearly, is not which religion is involved, but rather the fundamentalist view that the religious views of individuals are somehow the business of the community. It’s not a view held in the West, but is quite prevalent in the East. Not a clash of civilizations, but very different ways of organizing world views.
UPDATE: You might also look at this Washington Post article about a murder committedi n the name of suspicion about conversion efforts in Turkey. Of course, the religions involved hear are Christianity and Islam.