Himachal Pradesh anti-conversion law: Key Facts

The recent murder in Faridabad’s Ballabhgarh has again ignited discussions over the forced religious conversions.  In the last few years, it is a topic of major debate that girls of a particular community are forced to convert their religion and there is a need to curb it. After the murder of a girl in broad daylight, Haryana’s Home Minister Anil Vij has highlighted that the state government is looking over the possibility of making a new law for forced conversions. Not only this, but Vij has also sought information about a similar law already in place in Himachal Pradesh- Anti Conversion Law.

What is Anti-Conversion Law?

Himachal Pradesh government enacted the Anti-Conversion Law in 2007 after passing Freedom of Religion Bill, 2006. This law prohibits religious conversions through force or fraud. The state government has also passed a new Freedom of Religion Bill in 2019 with an aim to repeal the 2006 bill. Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur says that more stringent law is required on forced religious conversions.

What are the Key Features of the law?

The key features of Anti-Conversion Law of Himachal Pradesh are-

  • No person should convert or attempt to convert the religion of any other person through fraud, deception or for the sole purpose of marriage.
  • This law does not cover conversion to parent religion.
  • Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019 states that a person needs to notify the district magistrate at least 1 month prior converting his/her religion. The magistrate will then conduct an inquiry to find out the reason for conversion.
  • A person involved in forceful conversions can be jailed for a term upto 5 years. In case the victim is minor, SC/ST or woman; the punishment can be extended upto 7 years.
  • All the offences under this act will be non-bailable. Also, failure of prior information about conversion can lead to imprisonment of 2 years.

Religious Conversions in other states

The religious conversions are not limited to one or two states; its impact can be seen in many states of the country. Details related to the conversions in some states are-

Gujarat- As per the available data, in last 5 years, 1,895 applications have been registered in the state seeking religious conversion. Out of these applications, 54% were from Surat. 94 percent of the applications were filed by Hindus; 4% by Muslims and a little more than 1% by Christians. Maximum Hindus in Surat wish to convert to Buddhism and come from the Scheduled Castes.

Kerala- Most of the Dalits, Christians who converted to these religions from Hinduism are converting back to Hindus. As per Vishva Hindu Parishad secretary-general Milind Parande, around 25,000 Muslims and Christians were reconverted to Hindus in 2018. In Kerala also it is mandatory to get conversion notified in the gazette to make it legal.

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