The Haryana Assembly on Tuesday passed a Bill against religious conversions amid a walkout by Congress.
The Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2020, was introduced in the Assembly on March 4 after getting a clearance from the state Cabinet on February 9, PTI reported.
The new Bill is similar to laws brought by the Bharatiya Janata Party in some other states, including Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Sources say that more than 100 Muslims including scholars and religious leaders were arbitrarily arrested by police departments in these law-enacted BJP-ruling states under the new draconian law till now.
According to the Bill, any case of conversion done through allurement, use of force, fraudulent means or coercion, can invite imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, according to PTI news agency.
The onus of proof lies on the accused person, according to the Bill.
Leader of the Opposition in the Haryana Assembly, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said there is already a provision of punishment for forcible conversions in the existing laws and there was no need to bring a fresh law.
Several Congress MLAs termed the Bill “unconstitutional” and called it the BJP government’s attempt to “create a divide in the society on the basis of religion.”
Congress leader Kiran Choudhary said that the passing of the Bill was a black chapter in Haryana’s history.
“This Bill will deepen the communal divide. This Bill is scary. It can have grave consequences in future,” Choudhary said, according to PTI.
Congress’s Raghuvir Singh Kadian who is a six-time MLA and was suspended after he tore a copy of the Bill on the floor of the House. said, “I feel that this Bill smacks of divisive politics, which is not good.”
The law is seen as giving legal teeth to the BJP’s anti-Muslim campaign against the so-called ‘love jihad‘.
Though the term ‘love jihad’ has not been used in the legislation, BJP leaders and saffron groups had extensively used the term ‘love jihad’ to target Muslims, falsely accusing Muslim men of engaging in a mass conspiracy to turn Hindu women away from their religion by loving them.