Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has approved a controversial anti-conversion law that experts warn will “incite more religiously motivated violence” as attacks on Indian Christians and other religious minorities continue to escalate.
According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, the Uttar Pradesh state Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, approved a draft ordinance in November that’s purportedly intended to curb “forcible or dishonest religious conversions.”
Under the ordinance, religious conversions will be punished by a jail term of one to five years and a fine of 15,000 rupees (approximately $203). And religious conversions of minors, women, or members of low caste communities will be punished by a jail term of three to 10 years and a fine of 25,000 rupees (approximately $339).
ICC notes that since Uttar Pradesh’s state Legislature is not in session, India’s Constitution gives the governor power to put the ordinance into effect and it will remain valid for six months. It will then be confirmed by Uttar Pradesh’s state Legislature when it reconvenes.
As a justification for the ordinance, the chief minister reportedly cited concerns about “love jihad,” the fear that many Hindu women are being tricked into converting to Islam by Muslim men through marriage.
However, ICC notes that historically, radical Hindu nationalists have used the “specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity as justification to pass similar laws limiting religious freedom,” though Christians make up just 2.3% of the population.
Similar anti-conversion laws have also been enacted in several states run by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett