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 Anti-conversion laws in India

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Issachar
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Join date : 2007-10-07
Location : Bangalore, India

PostSubject: Anti-conversion laws in India   Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:56 pm




India's racial, ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity is staggering. With over one billion people, it is the most populous functioning democracy in the world.

Though the majority of the people are Hindu, India is a secular nation with constitutional freedoms of speech and religion and, generally speaking, the government works to protect those freedoms.

The caste system is deeply entrenched in Indian society. Until the middle of the twentieth century, The Untouchables were for centuries regarded as the refuse of society. In 1950, their name was changed to Dalits and they were given a Scheduled Caste status. While most upper caste opinions remain the same to this day, the 1950 law guarantees a certain quota of Dalits in specific societal institutions. However, Dalit converts to other religions lose their Scheduled Caste status, thus denying them basic human rights in many cases. In August, 2005, Christian Dalits began revisiting a bill that had failed to reach legislative evaluation nine years before. If passed, the bill would allow them to maintain their special status so they could be assured a place in society. In the same month however, the Supreme Court actually rejected a plea from another religious group requesting minority status. The Supreme Court maintains that special status for a religious group of any sort only adds to tensions in society. They are, in fact, encouraging the National Commission for Minorities to help create a society in which notified minorities are gradually done away with completely, thus developing a unified society in which all person are considered equal.

Christians have often faced opposition due to the deterioration of freedoms under the influence of militant Hindus at the federal level. However, Christians were encouraged by a surprising turn in the May 2004 election when the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party was overthrown, and the secular National Congress Party was voted into power. Upon forming a coalition with several other parties in what is known as the United Progressive Alliance, their rise to power prompted almost immediate reformation in India.

The state of Tamil Nadu, which was the first of several states to adopt anti-conversion legislation under the BJP, was also the first to repeal that law when the government changed hands.

Despite the changes in the federal government, however, persecution is far from over. Contrary to the action taken in Tamil Nadu, some states have actually worked to tighten anti-conversion laws. Anti-conversion laws remain in place in seven states (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh), giving support to militant groups and resulting in ongoing violence against Christians.

Specific instances of personal attacks can be named all across India. In May 2005, the death sentence for the man convicted of murdering Australian missionary Graham Staines and his boys in 1999 was commuted from the death sentence to life imprisonment. Seeing this as leniency for those who kill Christians, a Hindu militant and at least two others entrapped and murdered two pastors on the outskirts of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Reports of village churches being destroyed and church leaders being threatened by local Hindus continue to be a daily reality in India. Other persecution faced by Christians is more subtle, as converts to Christianity are often cast out of their families and face poverty and ostracism.

Source : The voice of the Martyrs Inc (Canada)
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