Luring people to change religion wrong, says CM
Shimla, Apr 3 (UNI) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh today warned of strict action against people luring others to change their religion, saying it was ''illegal and wrong''.
Replying to a debate in the assembly on the situation in the state due to incidences of proselytization here, he said adopting any religion was a personal decision of an individual, but was ''illegal and wrong'' if it was done by coercion and false promises.
Mr Singh said any person was also free to preach his religion under Section 25 of the Indian constitution and nobody can stop anyone from converting to another religion, if it was of one's own free will.
He admitted that the government had no fresh figures of people who had converted to Christianity, while saying that according to an intelligence report of August 2002, 540 people had adopted Christianity out of which 300 had reconverted to Hinduism a few months later.
Christian missionaries were active in various parts of the country and were targeting the poor and the underprivileged people of the society, he said.
He said it was more of a social problem with the society discriminating against the under privileged.
He said untouchability within the Hindu society was one of the main reasons for people from the lower castes to convert to Christianity. ''People from lower castes were converting to Christianity because they were being denied due respect and there were instances where the higher caste people and the lower caste people had different gods,'' he said.
The Chief Minister said people who had converted to other religions were still being denied the respect and now reservation in government jobs were being demanded for new converts.
Earlier, members across party lines expressed their concern over the increasing incidences of proselytization in the state and urged the state government to take action against people luring others to change their religion.
Speaking on the occasion, former chief minister P K Dhumal suggested the introduction of a bill on the lines passed by the Rajasthan Assembly, wherein forcing or luring people to convert to other religions had been made a crime with a punishment of two to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000.
He said the Bill could perhaps be introduced in the next session of the assembly to check the rising incidents of religion conversions in the state.
Reports of luring people to change their religion have come from Indora village of Una district and Kashmir village in Kinnuar district of the state and in both the cases people were offered money, he claimed.
Mr Dhumal said even the unemployed youth were being promised jobs, if they changed their religion.