TAMIL NADU

Campaign to cover districts, taluks

CHENNAI Dec. 7. The Anti-Conversion Law protest committee, comprising minority community and Dalit leaders, has decided to broadbase its campaign further by including Left parties and democratic organisations, the committee convenor and Bishop-in-Madras, V. Devasahayam, said here today.

Speaking to presspersons after presiding over a meeting organised by the North Chennai CSI unit as part of the campaign seeking repeal of the TN Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, Dr. Devasahayam said the committee would hold a meeting in the city on December 10 to chart out measures for "taking the campaign against the law to the district and taluk levels."

The committee, which originally comprised Dalit and minority community leaders, was now fortified with the inclusion of the Left parties and democratic forces. They would continue the protest, as the "reactionary Hindutva forces," as expected, had started an intimidatory campaign against some church organisations and teachers in missionary-run schools in places such as Theni, charging them with forcing youngsters to convert. Police complaints to this effect were being made, he said.

Earlier, the CPI State secretary, R. Nallakannu, said the AIADMK Government had brought in the anti-democratic, anti-secular and anti-minority law only to please the Hindutva forces. While legally there was scope for challenging the law, a broadbased political campaign was necessary to force the Government to backtrack on the issue.

Mr. Nallakannu and the women's activist, Mythili Sivaraman, said Tamil Nadu required an urgent law to prevent atrocities against Dalits, safeguarding human rights. In 2000 alone, there were more than 23,000 instances of atrocities against Dalits, including about 1,000 cases of sexual assault on Dalit women.

The Frontline Editor, N. Ram, said the provisions such as `allurement' or `force' as defined in the Act, had dangerous portends for the State, especially to threaten minorities and Dalits.

The DMK MLA, Parithi Ilamvazhithi, pointed out that before the Assembly Elections last year, Jayalalithaa had written letters to minority leaders "asking them to support her leadership of the secular front."

Now she had betrayed them. "Is this not allurement to lead people into voting for her," he asked and wanted the people to remember this aspect when elections were held next.

Among those who participated in the meeting were Fr. Lawrance Pius of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, Bishop Ezra Sargunam of the Evangelical Churches of India, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam's leader, Hyder Ali, and the All-India Democratic Women's Association leader, Vasuki.

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