New Delhi, Aug. 12: Jharkhand became the eighth state to pass a bill to restrict religious conversions today with leaders of the Opposition, church and civil society calling it an anti-Christian move aimed at dividing the tribal population of the state.
"The bill, and the one-page ad that preceded it, makes it clear that the target is Christians," said leader of the Opposition and JMM working president Hemant Soren.
"They want us to go to court, where lakhs of rupees will be spent on lawyers and we get bogged down in their game. Instead, we will build a public movement, like the one against the amendments (of the CNT and SPT acts), to defeat this attempt to pit Sarnas against Christians. Raghubar Das is doing this because Christian tribals, who are educated, played a historic role in raising awareness against the land grab of his government," Hemant said, referring to the manner in which the state government gave in to public sentiment and withdraw the amendments to the age-old tenancy laws.
Hemant said the "draconian bill" the government pushed through wasn't relevant in these times. "If conversions were as brazen as they claim, then I and many BJP politicians who studied under missionaries, would all be ChristiansTwo senior Sarna tribal leaders of the BJP told this paper that they had not read the bill completely. "As long as it is within the constitution, the bill will stand. However, the timing of it is bad. In the same way that Raghubar Das turned public opinion against us in his hurry to pass the land amendments, we are now left unprepared to deal with the fall out," one of them told this paper.
Activist and former State Womens' Commission member Vasavi Kiro sees an economic trigger to the law. "The rural development department has promoted poultry, goat and pig rearing among tribals. Now, with the crackdown on slaughter houses and enforcement of licensing, tribal are left without a market. To offset the outrage, they now want tribals to fight among themselves over who is Sarna and who is Christian," she said.