TAMIL NADU

Refer Bill to President, minorities tell Governor

A delegation of Dalit, Muslim and Christian leaders presenting a memorandum to the Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, at the Raj Bhavan in Chennai on Saturday, urging him not to give consent to the anti-conversion Bill. — Photo: T. A. Hafeez

A delegation of Dalit, Muslim and Christian leaders presenting a memorandum to the Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, at the Raj Bhavan in Chennai on Saturday, urging him not to give consent to the anti-conversion Bill. — Photo: T. A. Hafeez  

A delegation of Dalit, Muslim and Christian leaders presenting a memorandum to the Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, at the Raj Bhavan in Chennai on Saturday, urging him not to give consent to the anti-conversion Bill. — Photo: T. A. Hafeez

CHENNAI NOV. 9. Dalit and minority community leaders today met the Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, and urged him not to accord assent to the controversial `anti-conversion law' and, instead, forward it to the President for consideration.

Claiming that a `moral majority' in the State was opposed to the Bill, passed in the Assembly on October 30, the delegation, under the banner of `Prevention of Conversion Act Protest Committee', said: ``Morally the Government has forfeited its mandate as well as majority representative character though it continues to enjoy a numerical majority in the Assembly''.

In a memorandum, the leaders described the law as ``patently anti-minority'' and said that till date the Government had not authentically presented a single case of forced or fraudulent conversion.

Taking exception to a provision that every single conversion be reported to the district magistrate, the memorandum said it attempted to bring the freedom of conscience within the ambit of criminal procedure and scrutiny. In Christian and Islamic tenets, forced conversion was not only a crime but sin too, it added.

On the provision for higher punishment to those involved in forced conversions of Dalits and tribals, the memorandum said when these suppressed sections were free to make their political choice why should they not be allowed to choose their religious belief freely? ``Conversion was the last resort of a Dalit to escape the humiliations of untouchability, social rejection and organised violence.''

Expressing apprehensions over the implications of the term ``allurement'' , the memorandum said even well-meaning acts of benevolence and charity in the fields of education, health care and social service could be so construed by ``trouble-makers''.

`Why not present White Paper?'

The memorandum also raised ``grave concerns, genuine doubts and serious apprehensions'' over the ``hasty manner'' in which the ordinance was promulgated and then made law. ``If the scale and volume of forceful and fraudulent conversions have reached such levels demanding an emergency intervention by the State, then it is duty-bound to present a comprehensive White Paper with adequate proof''.

Later, the delegation members— including Bishop Devasahayam, Bishop Ezra Sargunam, Archbishop Aruldas James, the Dalit Panthers leader, R. Tirumavalavan, Krishna Parayanar and Hyder Ali— told presspersons that the Governor had assured them that he would consider their plea in keeping with constitutional provisions.

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