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House okays anti-religious conversion law amid din
The Assembly on Saturday passed two Bills- Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Bill, 2017 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 amendment bill- amid uproar, dissent and denouncement coming from the Opposition.
The move will keep the political pot boiling in coming days. Though members of the JMM and Congress pressed hard to get the legislations referred to the Select Committee for its recommendations and then bring it before the House, BJP members vociferously thumped in favour of having such an act citing widespread conversions taking place in the under-developed regions. Now, Jharkhand is set to become seventh State after Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh- covered under the act prohibiting religious conversions through illegitimate means.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Saryu Roy introduced the Bill to the House and Speaker Dinesh Oraon named the members from the Opposition wanted to send it to the standing committee to report back within 15 days. BJP members pressed for passing it soon. The Bill proposes through Section-3 that if anyone found indulged into religious conversions by adopting forceful or fraudulent means then punishment up to three years and/or fine up to Rs 50,000 can be given by the court.
In case the religious conversion of any person belonging to the Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, woman or minor takes place the convict can get four years of jail term and/or fine up to Rs one lakh. Also, prior to organising any such conversion programme one has to take permission of concerned DCs.
BJP's chief whip Radha Krishna Kishore termed the step belated. "This Bill is in the interest of Jharkhand and this should have been brought soon after the State was formed.
Those who are referring to religious freedom provided under the Article-25 of the Constitution should understand its soul which is not to disturb public order, morality of public health while propagating a religion. But here exactly opposite is happening. 30 per cent jump has been recorded in the population of Christians in the State between 2001 and 2011," said the legislator, adding that in the scenario like this the Government cannot remain just a mute spectator. However, this could not convince JMM and Congress leaders. Leader of Opposition Hemant Soren terming the attempt of the Government suspicious in nature expressed fear that the law would disturb the religious and social fabric of the State.
"The Government is running a campaign using the media which is particularly targeted against Christians. We have to understand the people like Mother Teresa are also here and conferred with the Nobel Prize. Most of us and those on higher positions have got education in convent schools but most of us did not convert! The issue is concerning to communal harmony thus the Bill be sent to the Select Committee for better discussion," said Soren.
Senior party colleague Stephen Marandi referring to the Constitutional provisions said the law would encroach upon the fundamental rights given to every citizen. "When you already have the Section 295(A) under the IPC which prohibits any religious conversion done fraudulently, forcefully and by luring and penal provisions are there for that, what was the need to bring this Bill? This is not proper that one has to follow his religion like a slave in a free country," said Marandi.
Lastly, the Speaker put the Bill on motion and declared it passed through voice vote which was welcome by the BJP members.
Meanwhile, the land amendment Bill in Section 10(A) has for about 10 defined social purposes like building school, road, anganwadi, health centres etc waives condition for social impact assessment and acquire land even multi-crop land. BJP members said that the land being acquired was not meant for industrial or commercial purposes.
When the Speaker declared that demand for sending the Bill to the standing committee is defeated and placed for final voting, the JMM members staged a walk out.
Speaking outside Hemant Soren said the Bills had been passed using a 'purchased majority' which was being used to spread hatred and said the party would approach institutional heads before launching protest 'greater than even against the CNT-SPT amendment proposals.'
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