The proposed bills on anti-conversion and “love jihad” are likely to rock the Winter Session of the Karnataka Assembly which got underway in Belgaum on Monday.
The Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government in the state has decided to table the controversial anti-conversion bill in both the Assembly and the Legislative Council, claiming it is necessary to “save Hindus”. The opposition Congress has threatened to take the government head on and oppose the bill, terming it discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Some ministers and MLAs perceived to be close to the RSS, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, have demanded a total ban on conversion and have urged the government to also introduce a separate bill banning “love jihad”.
The fierce debate on alleged rampant conversion by Christian evangelists started three months ago after BJP MLA and former minister Goolihatti Shekhar made a sensational revelation in the Assembly that his mother had returned to Hinduism after briefly converting to Christianity to “ward off some evils which had destroyed peace in the family”. The claim led to huge furore in the state, triggering demands for an anti-conversion law.
CM Bommai has said that the proposed bill is aimed at saving Hindus, mainly Dalits and STs, from missionaries that “lure them” into a new religion, promising “miracles and economic benefits”.
Speaking to the media, he said, “This bill will not discriminate against the Christians. There will be no trouble and they can co-exist peacefully. Christians are free to follow their religion. It is against doing business in the name of religion.”
Christian community leaders have expressed shock over the proposed bill, calling it draconian and unconstitutional. Dr Peter Machado, the Archbishop of Bengaluru, has said that it will make all Christians “second class citizens”. Addressing the media, he said Catholic churches are not into conversions and if the government proves the opposite, he will close down all Christian-run schools, colleges and hospitals in Karnataka.
Some Catholic community leaders, however, admit that foreign funded missionaries like New Life Church, Pentecostal, Zion, Bethel etc are into conversion.
“Ordinary people don’t know that Christianity is not a monolithic religion. There are hundreds of sects in Christianity. Some sects are into conversion. They are posing a danger even to Catholics and old Protestants. The aggressive posture by the BJP government in the state will harm Catholics and Protestant-run Church of South India, because these two are the most visible symbols of Christianity,” said a senior priest in Bengaluru.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Shobha Karandlaje has demanded that Bommai get the bill passed in the current session. Home Minister Araga Jnanedra, who is piloting the bill, has expressed the confidence that the bill will get passage.
V Sunil Kumar, Minister of Power, Kannada & Culture, has said that “anti-love jihad” bill will also be tabled in the current session of the legislature. Alleging that some Muslim organisations are into “trapping Hindu girls in the name of love”, he described it as a much-needed safeguard. Muslim community leaders have opposed it, describing it as a tool to harass people.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah has dared the Bommai government to go ahead with the proposed bills. “These are unconstitutional bills. It makes them second-class citizens. Bommai is insecure about his position. He is not a mass leader. He is doing it to please the RSS to stay in power. We will oppose it both inside and outside the Assembly,” the former CM said.
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