Karnataka plans anti-conversion law after MLA says his mother forcibly `converted'

karnataka, forceful conversion, araga jnanendra, congress, bjp, dalits

Karnataka is planning a new law to curb religious conversions, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said in the Assembly on Tuesday responding to demands from BJP and JD(S) members who complained of forced conversions at several places.

The members sought government’s action to stop them. BJP member Gulihatti Shekar (Hosadurga), who raised the issue, said his own mother had fallen victim to this and been converted. This has raised concerns within his own family.

Many organisations have been active in his constituency as well as in Chitradurga district and about 15,000 people were feared converted either with intimidation or with monetary enticements. This was breaking families and disturbing peace in villages, Shekar said.

Those falling prey are from Dalit and backward communities, and included Muslims, too. The persons engaged in converting people were threatening to file atrocity cases on those opposing them as many of these victims were Dalits, he added. BJP member KG Bopaiah too aired demands to prevent conversion.

Speaker Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri said many states already have strong laws to curb such practices and suggested Karnataka too could have a similar law.

The state government, the home minister responded, would study the laws on the subject in other states and come up with its own. They have already initiated discussions on the nature of law they need to bring about to effectively deal with conversions using force and other enticements, Jnanendra said.

The government was aware there have been organised networks operating in rural areas, he said, and added that no one could force anybody to convert to another religion. Such incidents threatened societal harmony and he will ask the police to act.

JD(S) member Devanand Chavan (Nagthan) urged the government to intervene as there have been large scale conversions in Vijayapura district, targeting the Banjara (SC) community.

Congress member KJ George (Sarvagnanagar) said he too was opposed to forced conversions, but members, he said, should give details of specific instances of intimidation instead of making a general statement.

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