Debate Continues Over Indian State’s Anti-Conversion Bill

The debate continues in India’s state of Rajasthan over an anti-conversion law that the state government is seeking to enact in its current legislative session, according to a church-planting mission agency.

“Nobody has a right to make conversions in this state,” a Rajasthan government official said recently, as reported by Gospel for Asia (GFA).

GFA, which has 95 pastors and nearly 2,000 members in the Northwestern Indian state, reported yesterday that religious leaders have expressed concern that, if passed, Rajasthan’s anti-conversion law would be used as a means to harass minority groups.

Last month, AsiaNews reported that Rajasthan Christian Churches had strongly condemned the bill, which some believe would give Christians and other religious minorities “a feeling of insecurity and fear.”

AsiaNews wrote that should the bill be adopted, it would punish those who induce or force others to convert, but religious minority rights activists have pointed out that Hindu fundamentalists use such notions in an abusive way. For example, under the terms of the proposed law, Christian charity works could be accused of proselytizing and be stopped and punished as a result, the news agency stated.

According to Christian activist J C Biswas, the law would be “a blunt instrument in the hands of fundamentalists to attack minorities and minority institutions.”

In contrast, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said last month that the bill would “curtail” missionaries' attempts to convert people.

“[We] cannot allow conversions to take place in our state,” Kataria told the state assembly, as reported by AsiaNews.

However, one leader expressed to GFA that existing provisions are ample for dealing with any unethical conversions.

Those Christians familiar with accusations of unethical conversions by India’s predominantly Hindu population have stressed the need for vigilance against efforts that may be seen as attempts to trick peasants into converting with promises of gifts of food and clothing.

However, AsiaNews reported that even those churches that try to avoid being accused of unethical conversion by being committed only to human development projects such as schools, hospitals and dispensaries, have come under activist fire.

Furthermore, attacks against Christians in Rajasthan have escalated in recent months. In one incident reported by GFA, an extremist group disrupted a service, severely beating some of those who had gathered to worship.

Mission groups such as GFA have asked the believers pray that the anti-conversion law not be passed in Rajasthan.