The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karunanidhi hits out at ban

Chennai, Oct. 7: Tamil Nadu’s main Opposition party, the DMK, today sharpened its attack against the Jayalalithaa regime for promulgating an Ordinance to ban religious conversion by the use of force or allurement, stopping short of dubbing the decree as yet another step by the ruling ADMK to get closer to the BJP.

The hardest ideological punch came from DMK president M. Karunanidhi, who termed the Ordinance contrary to the “principles” of the Dravidian movement as espoused by the late leaders, Periyar and Annadurai, who saw the axis with the minorities as integral to the “non-Brahmin movement” in Tamil Nadu.

Reacting sharply to queries on this issue at a news conference here, Karunanidhi said the Ordinance was “liable to be misused as much like the Prevention of Terrorism Act was being misused in Tamil Nadu.”

The provisions of this new Ordinance, soon to be enacted into a law, could be invoked even against genuine religious conversions under the pretext that they had been were “fraudulently done”, Karunanidhi said, adding: “We outright reject this Ordinance.”

Perhaps the only optimistic reaction to the Ordinance today came from Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Ashok Singhal who, after landing in the city, praised Jayalalithaa for this “bold step” and said it should be an eye-opener to other states. Religion freedom does not mean freedom to convert people from other faiths, he added.

Denying that the DMK was doing little to uphold the fidelity of its Dravidian ideological roots, Karunanidhi said his party had “never compromised” on its basic principles. As an example, he cited the incident where the DMK recently condemned the Kanchi Shankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswathy, for disapproving the consecration in Tamil of a temple near Karur.

“As he (Sri Jayendra Saraswathy) is the Acharya not just for Tamil Nadu and India, but for the entire world, he may even ask for a global legislation to ban such religious conversions,” the DMK chief ironically remarked, reacting to the Kanchi Shankaracharya’s approval of the new ordinance and calling for a similar legislation at the national level.

“Well, the ban on forcible conversion is not on the NDA’s agenda and DMK is part of the NDA. If it is on the BJP’s agenda, I am not bothered,” Karunanidhi said, diplomatically warding off questions on whether the Ordinance was yet another step by Amma to please the BJP.

Karunanidhi’s criticism came close on heels of similar reactions from a host of minority organisations such as the Global Council of Indian Christians, which expressed “alarm at the hurriedly promulgated Ordinance.”

The council sees the new decree as targeting Christians engaged in poverty alleviation, aimed at curtailing the freedom of the Christian community. The council also accused Jayalalithaa of succumbing to the Sangh parivar’s ideas on this issue.

The All India Christian People’s Forum feared that the law-enforcing agencies could misuse the penal clause under the new Ordinance to punish social workers and activists, since “allurement” was a “very loose term” open to a wide interpretation. The Archbishop of Madurai, M. Arokiyasamy, termed the Ordinance as a move to “divide the people on communal lines”.

State Congress president E.V.K.S. Elangovan has also disapproved of the Ordinance. However, the Indian National League leader, A.M. Abdul Khader, said it would not affect Muslims because they never indulged in “forcible conversions to Islam”.

Senior RSS functionary and advocate S. Sampath Kumar termed the Ordinance as “better late than never”.

“You must see it in the backdrop of reports like the one recently on a Canadian Missionary vowing to convert thousands of people in Madurai,” Kumar said. “Will the Christian Missionaries dare go to Pakistan or Bangladesh and say such things'”

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