An official in the eastern Indian state of Bihar said there is no need for the controversial anti-conversion law in his state because all faith groups “live in peace.”
“The government has always been alert here. And all people, be they from any religious group, live in peace. Hence, such a move is not required here,” said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
India’s Freedom of Religion Acts or “anti-conversion” laws are state-level statutes that have been enacted to regulate religious conversions.
The laws are currently in force in eight out of 29 states — Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand.
A C Michael, a former Member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said no state in the country actually needs the anti-conversion law.
“I wish the Delhi chief minister takes a cue from Nitish and declares a statement that the national capital of India doesn’t need anti-conversion laws,” said Michael.
He said these laws are being enacted to divert people’s attention from pressing issues, such as the rising prices of goods, and to create division for political gains.
Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash said the “bogey of conversion” is a convenient ploy by fundamentalist groups to polarize people and win in the elections.
The priest said the anti-conversion laws violate the Indian Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
John Dayal, former president of the All India Catholic Union, said Christian and Muslim communities should welcome the pronouncement of Bihar’s chief minister.
Dayal, however, said the persecution of Christians is still “rampant” in states adjoining Bihar, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh.
Even in Bihar, religious leaders who do not belong in a major denomination and house churches have been attacked by religious extremists. The victims’ complaints were reportedly not recorded by the police.