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Chandigarh: The Haryana Assembly on Tuesday, March 22, passed the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022 amid a walkout staged by Congress legislators who called the law “unconstitutional”.
The law attempts to curb religious conversion “through force, undue influence or allurement”. The Bill was introduced in the Assembly on March 4. Haryana now joins 10 other BJP-ruled states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh where such laws were passed.
According to the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2022, if conversion is done by allurement, use of force, fraudulent means or coercion, then there is a provision for imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh. The burden of proof lies with the accused.
As per the Bill, whoever converts or attempts to convert a minor, a woman or a person belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than four years, which may extend to 10 years and liable to fine not less than Rs 3 lakh.
Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is the Leader of the Opposition, said there were already provisions in the existing laws to prevent forcible conversions, and to award punishment to the offenders. He said there was no need to bring a fresh law.
Echoing the same, senior Congress leader Kiran Choudhary said, “I think this will be a black chapter in Haryana’s history”.
“This Bill will deepen the communal divide, this Bill is scary. It can have grave consequences in future…the shape in which this Bill has been brought is what we are objecting to,” she said.
Another Congress leader Raghuvir Singh Kadian said, “There is no emergency or urgency for bringing this Bill. I feel that this Bill smacks of divisive politics, which is not good.”
The Congress members later staged a brief walkout from the House.
In the run-up to the enactment of the Haryana anti-conversion Bill, there were several protests and objections. In fact, on March 4, when the Bill was introduced senior Congress legislator tore a copy of the Bill on the floor of House to express his disapproval over the contents of the Bill.
However, the BJP government under Manohar Lal Khattar went ahead with the tabling of the Bill and its eventual passage in the Assembly.
Explaining the need for such a law, Khattar in August last year said, “Law is enacted to create a deterrent for people when they start doing something wrong. Such incidents [of ‘love jihad’] have started taking place in a few places of Haryana. Till the time these were not happening, or when there were only one or two such incidents, there was no requirement of such a law in this regard.
But now several incidents of forced religious conversion by way of coercion and allurements have come to light. To prevent such incidents from happening, such laws are required. By way of example, I can say this is why we passed the anti-copying Bill. Laws are required to prevent any of these incidents from increasing in number.”
(With PTI inputs)