“As attacks against Indian Christians and other minorities continue to escalate, the approval of another anti-conversion ordinance will only further incite religiously motivated violence. "
THEMadhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Ordinance 2020, issued on January 9, now replaces the 1968 law. It is, according to lawmakers, the India's strictest anti-conversion law. This new anti-conversion law aims, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), to curb forced or fraudulent religious conversions.
From now on, anyone who wishes to change their religion will have to apply to the district administration 60 days beforehand. Religious leaders should do the same. Failure to comply with this order will result in a prison sentence of three to five years and a fine of 50 rupees, or nearly 000 euros.
Forced conversions will be punished with 1 to 10 years in prison, with a fine of up to 50 rupees.
William Stark, ICC regional director, is concerned about "the pride of Madhya Pradesh lawmakers" in the severity of this law. He denounces an incitement to "religiously motivated violence".
“Here at International Christian Concern, we are deeply disappointed to see Madhya Pradesh approve this anti-conversion ordinance. Of particular concern is the pride with which Madhya Pradesh lawmakers claim this new ordinance is the toughest anti-conversion law in India. Radical Hindu nationalists widely abuse similar laws because of their legal ambiguity. Ultimately, anti-conversion laws provide legal cover for nationalists to attack Indian Christians and Muslims with impunity. It suffices to claim that someone has engaged in forced conversions to justify an assault. As attacks on Indian Christians and other minorities continue to escalate, the approval of another anti-conversion ordinance will only further incite religiously motivated violence. "
The 2020 ordinance will be valid for 6 months and will need to be confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh state legislature at its next meeting.
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