Anti-conversion laws vs Human Right
Pastor Harendra Singh and his wife, Priya, were taken into custody under the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021. This controversial law in Uttar Pradesh aims to prevent conversions by "misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means." Violators of the law can face up to five years in prison and a fine of 15,000 Indian rupees ($180).
Despite the pastor's denial of the allegations, the family was arrested, and their young son was imprisoned with them, as it is common practice in India for children up to 6 years old to live with their incarcerated parents. Dinanath Jaiswal, a social activist, expressed his disappointment, stating that it is unfortunate for a 3-year-old to be jailed along with his parents.
India's Constitution guarantees religious freedom, but several states, including Uttar Pradesh, have enacted anti-conversion laws.
These laws are aimed at protecting what state legislators refer to as "gullible persons." They argue that many people have been converted from one religion to another through fraudulent means, and these laws are necessary to prevent such practices.
As of February, 12 out of India's 28 states, including Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, have such laws in place. While some states actively enforce them, others are still in the process of charging violators. Additionally, some states without these laws are considering their introduction.
Christian leaders in India have expressed their concerns over the recent arrests. On July 30, 15 Christians, including three pastors, were arrested and jailed in separate incidents. Among them was Pastor Amarjeet Ram from Balapur village in Ghazipur district. Appeals to release those detained have been denied, leaving the community dismayed.
The arrests in Uttar Pradesh have once again brought anti-conversion laws to the forefront of the debate on religious freedom in India. While the intention behind these laws may be to protect vulnerable individuals, critics argue that they can be misused to curtail religious freedom and target religious minorities.
The case of Pastor Harendra Singh and his family will undoubtedly be closely monitored by both national and international observers, as it may set precedents for how such laws are applied and interpreted in the future. The incident has also garnered attention from various human rights organizations, calling for a thorough review of anti-conversion laws and their impact on religious minorities in the country.
Source: Christian Post, AVC
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