Gujarat anti-conversion laws irk religious minorities.

By October 12, 2006

India (MNN)–More than 100,000 Dalits, or untouchables, are meeting Saturday in Nagpur, Maharashtra, to burn the state’s anti-conversion laws.

Similar rejections are taking place in Gujarat state over the laws. The new law lumps Buddhism and Jainism as branches of the majority Hindu religion and absolves conversions between these faiths from any government action.

Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton tells us what happened. “Last month, the state assembly passed amendments to that act which apparently now, will pave the way for it to really be enforced and put into place.”

There are fears that the laws will further polarize the violence-prone state, especially between Muslims and Hindus.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused by human rights groups of aiding and abetting the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in the state.
“Obviously,” he states, “any act that prevents people from changing their religion is a cause for concern, for Christian ministries, for others involved in witnessing, we would want there to be freedom.”

Four of India’s 29 states have enacted anti-conversion laws. Nettleton shares a concern for the impact on evangelism. “Suppose a Hindu becomes a Muslim and this act comes into play and is enforced to try to prevent that from happening. I think then you have a recipe for unrest and potentially, violence in this part of India.”

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