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Why are anti-conversion laws a concern for minorities?

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Ground Report | New Delhi: Why are anti-conversion laws a concern; The anti-conversion laws adopted by several Indian states have been the subject of much scrutiny. While forced conversions are banned in all states, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh prohibit conversion through marriage. The key difference in the new laws is that they seek to criminalize conversion for the purpose of marriage only.

It becomes a problem even when these laws are misused to spread communalism and target citizens, especially minorities and disadvantaged groups in society.

International Christian Concern, a group that studies human rights for Christians around the world, has released a report highlighting the flaws in anti-conversion laws in India. According to the report, the laws attack the freedom of religion of Indians and curb their rights by undesirable government interference.

The ICC group suggested that the US State Department should protect minority rights and pressure India in its bilateral talks to repeal anti-conversion laws and condemn violence against religious minorities.

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Why are anti-conversion laws a concern?

The Report further said that In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a sharp decline, with increasing attacks on religious minorities. Following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) re-election in May, the national government used its strong parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies that violated religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims.

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The national government allowed violence against minorities and their places of worship to continue, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and inciting violence. In 2021, the USCIRF once again recommended India to be designated a CPC, as many of the issues highlighted in the 2020 Annual Report continued to escalate.

According to the USCIRF, “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government promoted Hindu nationalist policies that resulted in systematic, persistent and serious violations of religious freedom.” Many of the policies highlighted by the USCIRF focus on the treatment of India’s Muslim population. This included the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the religious violence that followed.

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Conduct a comprehensive study on religious freedom

The group also asked the US to send the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Act 0f 1998. He has been denied entry into India to conduct a comprehensive study on religious freedom.

In May 2018, eight Christians, including six men and two women, were arrested at a railway station in Madhya Pradesh. He was accused of kidnapping and attempted forced conversion of 60 children he accompanied to a summer Bible camp. All the children came from Christian families. Also, their parents gave their consent for their children to go and participate in the camp. Despite these facts, eight Christians were charged with attempted forced conversions under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 1968, the state’s anti-conversion law.

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ICC further reported that America should create incentives for local, regional, and national governments to punish perpetrators of religiously motivated minority hate crimes. These incentives should include a reward-based system for action taken by Indian authorities to prevent religiously motivated attacks.

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