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Citizen activists, NGOs protest against anti-conversion law in Bengaluru

The protestors, led by Bangalore Archbishop Peter Machado, demanded the bill’s immediate withdrawal
Last Updated : 22 December 2021, 19:12 IST
Last Updated : 22 December 2021, 19:12 IST
Last Updated : 22 December 2021, 19:12 IST
Last Updated : 22 December 2021, 19:12 IST

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More than 40 organisations held a massive protest in the city against the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021 tabled by the state government in the ongoing Assembly session.

Alleging that the state government is trampling upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy and dignity, the protestors, led by Bangalore Archbishop Peter Machado, demanded the bill’s immediate withdrawal.

Addressing the rally, the archbishop said: “By now everybody would have read the contents of the bill and are aware that it not only affects Christians, but also other communities in the society. There have been several laws already preventing forced conversions. The Christian community has always served the country and its poor.”

Stating that Karnataka has always been known for its progressive outlook, he said: “The state must give out a message to others that it is open to privacy, dignity and human rights.” Yousuf Kunhi from Jamaat-e-Islami said the bill was against social reformer Basavanna’s teachings and those supporting the bill would in principle be going against Basavanna.

“Lingayat MLAs who won the elections on the basis of the Constitution and promised development, progress and communal harmony should resign if they are in favour of the bill,” he argued.

Women protestors felt that the legislation was an attack on them. “The bill presumes that women and individuals from the Dalit and SC communities do not have the agency to decide the religion they want to belong to,” pointed out Gowramma of the Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana.

Protestors argued in unison that the bill is against the Constitution and urged the Upper House to reject it.

“This is against Article 25 of the Constitution and is trampling upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy, and dignity,” said Professor Y J Rajendra, president, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka.

Explaining the bill’s unconstitutionality, protestors said it is vague in defining “allurement”. It also legitimises hate crime against minority communities, besides empowering the state to determine “genuineness” of the intention. They also dubbed the bill an assault on interfaith relationship, including marriages.

Constitutionalists and lawyers present at the protest pledged to challenge the bill, in case the government decides to enforce it.

“The bill, by seeking to target conversions, interferes with both right to dignity and freedom to practise the faith of their choice,” said Arvind Narrain, an advocate and constitutional law expert.

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Published 22 December 2021, 19:04 IST

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