Protesters say anti-conversion Bill criminalises faith

‘Bill undermines agency of individuals to make choices of who their partners can be’

A day after the State Government tabled the anti-conversion Bill (Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021) in the Legislative Assembly, a coalition of over 40 organisations of minorities, youths, Dalits, women, and human rights organisations held a protest in Bengaluru, demanding its immediate withdrawal.Peter Machado, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Bangalore, said the community was sad that the Government did not heed to their appeals and went ahead with the Bill.“We request you not to humiliate the community with this Bill, which potentially criminalises the practice of faith. We are happy that other sections of society have also come out against it,” he said. “The anti-conversion Bill, ironically named ‘Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill’ is presently seen as an issue solely posing threat to the fundamental rights of Christian community. But the Bill undermines the agency of an individual to make intimate choices of who their partners can be and what religion they must practice,” said a joint statement by the coalition of organisations. Yusuf Kanni, vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Karnataka, said the Bill betrays the ideals of 12th century philosopher Basaveshwara. “If the Government persists with the Bill, it will spark off a CAA-like Statewide protest,” he said. Advocate and activist Clifton D’ Rozario said the law should be seen as part of a larger pattern. “Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai recently made the infamous “action-reaction” statement when asked about moral policing by Hindutva groups. The exact same justification heard in Gujarat in 2002. The Bill effectively legitimises vigilantism and in turn penalises victims,” he said.‘It is anti-women’Several women activists termed the Bill “anti-women” as it robs them of their agency. Gowramma, president of the Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane, said the law would be used to harass all those who go for inter-faith marriages and rob the women of their freedom to choose partners. “Why should the Government choose what we should eat, wear, and whom we marry?” she asked. Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali said the Bill rejects a plural idea of India. “The Government seems to have not learnt its lessons from the people’s victory in protests against NRC-CAA and farm laws. The anti-conversion Bill is just another distraction from the real issues facing the country,” she said.

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