From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 25
Mains level : Religious conversions
The Supreme Court said that- acts of charity or good work to help a community or the poor should not cloak an intention to religiously convert them as payback.
What did the SC say?
- Conversion on the basis of a voluntarily felt belief in the deity of a different faith is different from belief gained through allurement.
- The court said it would examine such veiled intentions behind religious conversions through allurement by offering food, medicines, treatment, etc.
What is Religious Conversions?
- Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination to the exclusion of others.
- It is one of the most heated issues in the society and politics which can be defined as the adoption of any other religion or of a set of beliefs by the exclusion of other i.e. renouncing one religion and adopting another.
- There are various reasons for which people do convert their religion like:
- Voluntary Conversions i.e. conversions by free choice or because of change of beliefs.
- Forceful Conversions i.e. conversions by coercion, undue influence or inducement.
- Marital Conversions i.e. conversions due to marriage.
- Conversion for convenience i.e. social mobility
Constitutional ambiguity over conversions
- The question whether ‘right to convert’ comes under the ambit of ‘right to propagate any religion’ holds fundamental importance to determine the constitutionality of anti-conversion laws.
- Article 25 talks about the term “propagate” which means to promote or transmit or merely a freedom of expression.
Why is this getting prominence in India?
Selective persecution and religious marginalization is often debated in India due to religious conversions for:
- Ghar Wapsi
- Inter-faith Marriages (often termed as Love Jihad)
What about Incentivised Conversions?
- There are many cases of incentivized conversions for the poor sections of society in exchange for a dignified social life.
For them, the solution lies in addressing the root issues:
- Ending discrimination
- Providing high-quality and free education to the poor and disenfranchised
- Improving access and quality of free health facilities and medicines
- Improving nourishment and
- Providing adequate employment opportunities to all
How has Parliament handled anti-conversion bills?
After independence, Parliament introduced a number of anti-conversion bills which were not enacted for want of majority approval.
- In post-Independent India, the first Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill, 1954, which sought to enforce “licensing of missionaries and the registration of conversion.”
- This was followed by the introduction of the Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill, 1960, “which aimed at checking conversion of Hindus to ‘non-Indian religions’.
- Non-India religions included Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism,.
- The Freedom of Religion Bill in 1979, which sought “official curbs on inter-religious conversion.”
- Religious conversion gives new identity to the communities converted which in turn leads to social mobility.
- Hence, anti-conversion amount to discrimination and a violation of the right to equality.
- However, inter-faith marriages should not be pre-conditioned with religious conversion.
- This certainly raises concerns for the majority of society.
- Also mass conversions for the sake of revivalism should also not be promoted in any ways.
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