The BJP government and the Opposition have engaged in a verbal spat over the anti-conversion Bill which was passed by the Jharkhand Assembly on Saturday. The bill was introduced by the BJP government amid continuous protest by the Opposition party to turn it down. The NDA MLAs believe that the bill should have been passed as soon as Jharkhand became a state but to this, the Opposition said that the penal provision was already present in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The bill will now be sent to the Governor following whose approval, it will be forwarded to the President for his consent. According to The Indian Express, the person who is forcing another individual to convert the religion can be imprisoned for three years and fined Rs 50,000 or both.
The report added that if the person converted is a minor, woman or a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the punishment would be four year- imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine, or both. Stephen Marandi, senior MLA of Opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) discussing the Bill said that the Constitution already gives a person the right to practice his choice of religion.
He added that the penal provisions in IPC hold punishment for those indulging in forceful and alluring conversions, therefore, the new Bill passed has no particular significance. He also said that the provision to inform Deputy Commissioner regarding the conversion is full of problems and can be misused by people to harass others. Marandi also questioned about the number of forcible conversion cases registered under IPC to pass a new Bill. Opposition leader JMM chief Hemant Soren argued that the matter concerns communal harmony hence it should be discussed before being passed.
Irfan Ansari, Congress MLA attacked the BJP government saying that the new Bill is a proof that the government’s agenda has changed from development to something else and alleged that the party wants to disrupt harmony between communities. But, the BJP countered this allegation by pointing at the demographic change in the state of Jharkhand.
BJP leader Radha Krishna Kishore said, “In 2001, Christian population (in Jharkhand) was 10,93,380. In 2011 census, this was 14,18,608 — an increase of around 30 per cent, and who are the people being converted? The poor, the Dalit and the tribal population living in interior areas.” BJP MLA said the Bill is the inner voice of Sanatan Dharmi-prakriti Dharmi that should have been heard when the state was first formed.