Census figures show rampant conversion is a myth: Congress

The party calls anti-conversion Bill ‘draconian, inhuman, and anti-Constitution’

December 24, 2021 01:34 am | Updated 01:34 am IST - Belagavi

Opposition members staging a protest in the Legislative Assembly during the debate on the anti-conversion Bill, in Belagavi on Thursday.

Opposition members staging a protest in the Legislative Assembly during the debate on the anti-conversion Bill, in Belagavi on Thursday.

The principal Opposition Congress on Thursday vehemently opposed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, terming it as “draconian, inhuman, and anti-Constitution.”

Participating in a debate on the Bill that was piloted by Home Minister Araga Jnanendra in the Legislative Assembly, Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah argued that the Bill had been brought in to target a particular community.

Observing that already there were provisions under existing laws to act against conversions through inducement, force, and misrepresentation, he maintained that the Bill would not stand legal scrutiny. “It is bound to be struck down by courts if legally challenged before them,” he remarked, and urged the Government to withdraw the Bill in a bid to prevent any embarrassment in the future in the form of legal scrutiny.

Population figures

Mr. Siddaramaiah sought to counter the argument that conversion due to force had reached such a menacing proportion that the population of Hindus had declined. Citing Census figures, he pointed out that the population of Hindus that accounted for 83.86% of the total population in the State in 2001 had actually increased to 84% in 2011. Similarly, the population of Muslims had increased from 12.23% to 12.93% from 2001 to 2011 while Christian population had actually reduced from 1.91% to 1.87% during this period.

Making it clear that the Congress too was opposed to fraudulent conversions, he said the Government should look at the reasons for such conversions instead of targeting them. There were sociological reasons for it such as discrimination, he said. There was a dire need for the Government to address such issues, he maintained.

Sociological factors

Mr. Siddaramaiah alleged that the BJP Government had brought in the controversial Bill to divert public attention from its failures on various fronts. He also took exception to the Bill discriminating between the conversions of other people and those belonging to SC/ST communities in terms of penal provision. Referring to this, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said stringent provisions were made to prevent fraudulent conversions of Dalis as they were being exploited. “It is our duty to prevent the exploitation of oppressed sections,” he argued.

‘Pampa and Ranna too converted’

Mr. Siddaramaiah on Thursday observed that Karnataka had a history of religious conversion by stalwarts by choice.

He pointed out that greats of Kannada literary world such as Pampa and Ranna too had converted. Born Brahmins, they had embraced Jainism. Similarly, 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara founded the Lingayat religion. Several kings and their followers too converted to Jainism, he pointed out.

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