Another state in India has passed a law banning religious conversions, reports UK-based Release International. Madhya Pradesh has replaced existing legislation with a tough new law intended to prevent Hindus changing their religion.
Observers warn this is the harshest anti-conversion law yet to be passed in India. And there is concern it could lead towards a ban on Christian evangelism in the entire country.
The latest Persecution Trends survey by Release International warns of rising persecution in India in 2021. In response the charity is calling for the repeal of all India’s anti-conversion laws.
At least nine Indian states have now passed anti-conversion laws, and some like Madhya Pradesh are tightening up earlier legislation.
Under the new restrictions there suspects can be arrested without warrant and held without bail and the onus is on them to prove their innocence.
The anti-conversion law in Madhya Pradesh was put into effect by the state governor on January 9. It follows Uttar Pradesh, which imposed a similar law in November.
The new rules in Madhya Pradesh mean anyone wanting to change their faith must obtain official permission 60 days in advance. The penalty is up to ten years in jail and a fine of 50,000 rupees.
The law is ostensibly intended to prevent conversion by force. But in practice, such laws treat Christian relief aid as bribery, and warnings of divine judgment as coercion.
The law states: ‘No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any other person by use of misrepresentation, allurement, use of threat of force, undue influence, coercion or marriage or by any other fraudulent means.’
‘On the face of it, that may seem reasonable, but these laws are catch-alls which simply fuel intolerance and extremism,’ says Paul Robinson of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.
‘Our partners are recording a rise in attacks against Christians in India, which has become a country of concern. Release International urges India to repeal these anti-conversion laws.’
In Uttar Pradesh, one of the most recent states to pass such legislation, a South Korean Christian and three Indian nationals have been jailed after distributing food aid to people impacted by the Covid lockdown.
The accused deny offering money or asking anyone to change their religion.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service