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26. Joshi sparks off row over Religion Bill

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS
New Delhi, 9 March 1997
26. Joshi sparks off row
over Religion Bill
PRANATI MEHRA

MUMBAI, MARCH 8 - Chief Minister Manohar Joshi�s assurance to a delegation of Catholic leaders, last month, has surprised Mangalprabhat Lodha, BJP MLA from Malabar Hill.

The issue is the Maharashtra Freedom of Religion Bill, introduced by Lodha as a private member�s Bill in the last Assembly session at Nagpur. The Bill seeks to make the use of force or allurement for religious conversion a cognisable offence in the State.

The Bill, which did not come up for discussion though it was introduced on December 20 last year, the last day of the session, is expected to be taken up in the forthcoming Budget session of the State Legislature, later this month.

Joshi has apparently assured the delegation, comprising Cardinal Simon Pimenta, the former Archbishop of Mumbai, Bishop Thomas Dabre and Father Denis Pereira, secretary of the Archdiocese Board of Education, that the Catholic community should not be anxious about the introduction of the Bill, since it was a private member�s Bill.

An upset Lodha refuses to believe that the Chief Minister could have made such a statement. �It would amount to an infringement of a legislator�s right to move a private Bill. It is likely that the Catholic leaders have misquoted Joshi,� Lodha said.

Capt. Jimmy Martin, spokesman for the Archbishop, however, confirmed that the delegation, which met Joshi on January 23 this year, had, in fact, quoted the Chief Minister correctly.

�The delegation met Joshi after the incident at the Canossa High School (Shiv Sena staging protests over a teenager�s conversion to a Christian sect),� Martin told this reporter.

�It was in that context that they met the Chief Minister, and the private member�s Bill was mentioned. The Chief Minister did assure the community as has been quoted in newspapers,� Martin confirmed.

Lodha is not convinced. �I am not going to withdraw this Bill. So, it will have to be put to vote, whether any community likes it or not. Besides, the Bill is not against religious conversion per se. I do not see how anyone can fear a move which opposes the use of fraudulent means in religious conversion,� he said.

He said he would also consider a privilege motion against the Catholic leaders, �if they do not withdraw the Press release they have sent to the newspapers regarding the Chief Minister�s assurance�.

Despite repeated attempts, the Chief Minister was not available for comment.

If the Bill becomes an Act, then the use of force or allurement for religious conversions will become punishable with a maximum jail term of one year or fine upto Rs. 5,000, or both.

The punishment will be double if the offence is committed in respect of a minor, woman or person belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.

Anyone performing the rites for conversion or witnessing such rites, would be obliged to inform the District Magistrate of the conversion.

The Bill has provisions for the offence to be investigated by an officer of the rank of inspector of police or above.*
 

Footnotes:

* The Congress Governments in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh had enacted similar Acts quite some time ago. But BJP Governments in U.P., Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have not even given a thought to such a step. It was certainly brave on the part of a BJP MLA to defy the party veto in this context.
 

     

 

Time for Stock Taking - Whither Sangh Parivar?

Sita Ram Goel
Chapters
Introduction
1. A Call for an Intellectual (Bauddhika) Kshatriya
2. Ideological Defence of Hindu Society
1. G.V. Ashtekar
2. Professor G.C. Asnani
3. Deep Chandra Awasthi
4. P. N. Awasthi
5. S. K. Balasubramanian
6. Abhas Chatterjee
7. G.C. Chaudhary
8. S. K. Dalvi
9. Ashoke Dasgupta
10. Jitendra D. Desai
11. Nachiketa Dogra
12.  Adwayanand R. Galatge
13. K. B. Ganapathy
14. Padmashri Shalil Ghosh
15. Bhagwati Prasad Goenka
16. Shiv Goud
17. S. C. Gupta
18. B.L. Jaju
19. H.C. Joshi
20.  Dr. S.D. Kulkarni
21.  S.D. Laghate
22.  Professor K. Lakshminarayana
23. Professor K.S. Lal
24. Professor R. R. Mangasuli
25. T. G. Mohandas
26.  Professor S. G. Mujumdar
27.  P. R. K. Naidu
28.  S. Omkar
29. Virendra V. Parekh
30. Hem Raj Prabhakar
31. Baljit Rai
32. Dr. H. Ramarao
33. B.K. Rao
34. (Mrs) Veda Sampath
35. Smt.  M. Sandhya
36. K. Satya Deva Prasad
37. Jagannath Sharma
38. Ajit Singh
39.  Ram Autar Singh
40. Vikram Singh
41. Dr. Vinay Kumar Sinha
42. Shrikant G. Talageri
43. Mrs. Leela Tampi
44. B. K. Verma
45. R. C. Waswani
46. P. S. Yog
47. Brief Responses
1. Sarva Dharma Samabhãva or Sarva Dharma Sambhrama? 
(Unity or Confusion of Religions?)
2. Meaning of Conversions
1. Roll Over, Rushdie
2. Standing Up to Scrutinize Islam
3. Turning away from Mecca
4. Islam is religious fascism
5. Courageous author puts his life on the line
6. Far more dangerous than Nazism
1. Legacy of hate
2. BJP shifts stand to woo Muslims
3. BJP promoting a �minority-friendly� image for elections
4. BJP looks for Muslim plank to move towards Delhi
5. BJP girds up to appease Muslim
6. Khurana�s go-slow on migrants issue irks hawks
7. Pampering the minority ego
8. BJP to bring out Koran in Sanskrit
9. Vajpayee for diluting stand on �Hindutva�
10. More Space for �namaaz� urged
11. Chhabildas sticks to his guns on minority votes
12. Advani allays minorities fears
13. Secret of BJP�s success
14. Advani woos Indian expatriates in London, assails Govt�s Kashmir policy
15. BJP bid to woo Muslims
16. �How can any Muslim in this country say that he does not respect Ram?�
17. Malhotra�s statement on Ayodhya annoys Chavan
18. BJP bid to win over Muslims
19. RSS wants Muslims for friends
20. Babri or �Barabari�?
21. Bihar BJP�s first-ever Muslim leader emerges
22. J.K. Hindu exiles eulogise Thackeray
23. Secularism is the very colour of our blood: Vajpayee
24. A good augury
25. Muslims in Behrampada voted in a pragmatic way
26. Joshi sparks off row over Religion Bill
27. VHP drops plan to �liberate� Kashi, Mathura
28. Govt seeks revision of order on Naib Imam
29. BJYM�S meet on June 7
30. Vande Mataram �dispute� at BJP Muslim meeting
The Tabligh Movement or Millions of Bearded Militants on the March
1. Population Explosion in West Bengal: A Survey