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Haryana Assembly passes anti-conversion Bill amid Congress walkout

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Chandigarh, Mar 22: Amid a Congress walkout, the Haryana Assembly on Tuesday passed a Bill against religious conversion through force, undue influence or allurement.

Representational Image

The Bill was introduced in the Assembly on March 4 and according to it, the onus of proof lies with the accused.

Similar Bills in the recent past have been passed in the BJP-ruled state, including Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

According to the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2022, if conversion is done by allurement, use of force, coercion or fraudulent means, including the use of digital mode, there is a provision for imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh.

Anyone concealing his religion with intention to marry shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than three years, which may extend to 10 years and shall be liable to fine not less than Rs 3 lakh.

The mass conversion shall be punished with the imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to pay a fine not less than Rs 4 lakh, as per the Bill.

It said whoever converts or attempts to convert a minor, woman or a person belonging to the SC or ST using force, threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than four years, which may extend to 10 years and liable to fine not less than Rs 3 lakh.

The House witnessed noisy scenes as sharp exchanges took place between the treasury and Congress benches during the discussion, which lasted for an hour.

The Congress members staged a brief walkout and the Bill was passed in their absence.

Earlier, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said in the House, "If anyone converts by choice, we don't have a problem, but not if allurement, force or threat is used".

"In the heart of their hearts, our Congress friends also understand this but it is their compulsion to oppose. Even today, our friends in the Congress do not have the courage to call the right right and wrong wrong," said Khattar.

The CM said the Bill aimed at instilling fear among those who commit the crime of forcible conversions. The purpose of this Bill is to control forced religious conversion, he said.

The CM said 127 FIRs over complaints for forced religious conversion were registered in six districts in four years. Most complaints pertained to Yamunanagar, Panipat, Gurugram, Palwal and Faridabad districts.

Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is the Leader of the Opposition, said already in the existing laws there is provision of punishment for forcible conversions and there was no need to bring a fresh law.

Senior Congress leader Kiran Choudhary said, "I think this will be a black chapter in Haryana's history." "This Bill will deepen the communal divide, this Bill is scary. It can have grave consequences in future..the shape in which this Bill has been brought is what we are objecting to," she said.

Senior Congress leader Raghuvir Singh Kadian said, "There is no emergency or urgency for bringing this Bill. I feel that this Bill smacks of divisive politics, which is not good".

This Bill should be sent to the House select committee, Kadian demanded.

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