New Delhi: An anti-conversion law has come into force in Himachal Pradesh with Governor V S Kokje giving his assent to it. It has become the first Congress-ruled state to adopt legislation banning illegal religious conversions.
Himachal Pradesh is a Hindu state with more than 90 per cent Hindu population. It is the first Congress ruled state to pass an anti-conversion Bill.
Ironically, it was the Congress which had made a huge hue and cry when Gujarat and Tamil Nadu tried to pass a Bill banning conversion.
The legislation was passed by the state Assembly in its Winter Session in December, Raj Bhawan sources were quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
During the session at Dharamsala, the BJP had obtained a commitment from Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh for a law to stop conversions in the state.
Under the legislation, anybody willing to convert from one religion to another will have to give a month's notice to the district magistrate, who after an inquiry, can grant permission to do so.
The population of Christians in Himachal Pradesh is not more than 10,000, but the BJP and Hindu organisations have from time to time complained about conversions by missionary groups.
HISTORY OF THE LEGISLATION
When the Britishers ruled India there was no anti-conversion law. The reason being that they were followers of Christianity and understandably they did not enact a law detrimental to their own interest by prohibiting conversion from one religion to another religion. During the British regime many Hindus willingly and voluntarily embraced Christianity to secure pecuniary gains and other advantages from the British rulers.
After India attained Independence, public opinion against conversion became vigilant and assertive. In a predominantly Hindu Society, a large-scale conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Islam has a tendency to disturb the local custom and faith as well as indigenous institutions and thereby rob the local people of their own personality. It may even lead to law and order problems thereby prompting the need for anti-conversion laws.