Bhubaneswar: Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha elections Lal Krishna Advani on Wednesday rejected the idea of a ban on religious conversion and said any move against conversions must not become a campaign against any community.
Asked whether conversion should be banned in the country as demanded by various outfits, Advani replied, "No. In a country like India, it should not be legally prohibited, though some countries like Indonesia have banned conversion. Even laws in some countries provide for death penalty for conversion."
Many leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, were opposed to religious conversion but when it came to banning it legally, the matter was discussed at various fora, including the Constituent Assembly, he said.
In India, there is no legal prohibition of conversion though in some states past Congress governments had enacted laws to prevent conversions through coercion, inducement and allurement, Advani said adding conversions done voluntarily as per procedures of these laws are noted and recorded in these states.
Advani, however, strongly advocated a free debate to build a firm national consensus against proselytisation through coercion, inducement or by vilifying any faith.
"Time has come for a free and frank democratic debate and inter-faith dialogue on the issue of religious conversion with a view to building a firm national consensus against proselytisation using methods of coercion or inducements or by vilifying any faith," he said.
Advani, however, made it clear that any campaign against conversions cannot and must not become a campaign against any community.
"There can be no justification for violence or vandalism in the name of religion," the BJP leader said.
Turning to communal violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district, Advani said the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati was a provocative and highly condemnable incident and demanded quick arrest and punishment of the culprits.
The motive behind the crime also needs to be established, he said.
At the same time, the violent reaction to this incident, resulting in attacks on churches and the killing of many innocent Christians, was also condemnable, he said adding the guilty should not be spared.
Such incidents must not be repeated, either in Orissa or anywhere else in the country, the BJP leader said.
Hitting out at the UPA government for advisories issued to Karnataka and Orissa in the wake of the attacks on churches and missionaries, Advani said the Centre remained "silent" though violence continued for months together in Nandigram in West Bengal and other parts of the country, including Assam, where people were targetted, the Centre remained silent.
The same thing was repeated in Congress-ruled Maharashtra where non-Marathi speaking people were attacked, he said adding such advisories were of little meaning as violence had been controlled both in Karnataka and Orissa.
On Indo-US civil nuclear deal, he accused the Centre of trying to violate the assurances it had given to Parliament and misleading the common people by promising that it would give electricity to every household, which was false as no such thing was going to happen through the pact.