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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Christians seek cover from Sangh outfits

Plea in Karnataka for police protection for Christmas

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 03.12.22, 03:45 AM
The Christian community has already expressed resentment about the anti-conversion law and expressed concerns at the possibility of misusing them to target anyone engaged in humanitarian work.

The Christian community has already expressed resentment about the anti-conversion law and expressed concerns at the possibility of misusing them to target anyone engaged in humanitarian work. Representational picture

A Christian organisation has sought police protection for the community and its places of worship during Christmas celebrations in the wake of recent attacks.

While Sangh Parivar outfits have been targeting Christian places of worship, the anti-conversion law that has come into effect in the state has led to arrests of members of the community for alleged proselytisation.

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Akhila Bharath Christha Mahasabha sought police protection across Karnataka as the past year witnessed several instances of members of Sangh Parivar outfits barging in and disturbing prayers alleging forced conversions of Hindus.

“We submitted a memorandum to the director-general of police as we fear attacks on our community, our places of worship and events like Christmas carols. The anti-conversion law has only made things difficult for us since even an innocent activity like singing carols or presenting Christmas gifts could be misconstrued as an attempt to lure someone into our religion,” Prajwal Swamy, president of the city-based organisation, told The Telegraph on Friday.

“The police department has assured us that the matter would be communicated to district chiefs and then to the local police stations,” he said.

The current dispensation helmed by Basavaraj Bommai had first taken the ordinance route to enforce The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022, in May. The act passed in September replaced the ordinance.

“Five persons have been arrested last month under this law and we fear that any Christmas-related activity could be misinterpreted as attempts to proselytise. So we want adequate protection for our community, our places of worship and our events,” said Swamy.

Last month, Mandya police arrested five persons who were found distributing Christian religious pamphlets outside a church. Some locals who took objection alerted the police who arrested them under the law against conversions by fraud, coercion or allurement. Those convicted under the law can face jail terms between three and five years apart from a penalty of Rs 25,000.

Proselytising a minor or members of the SC/ST communities can fetch three to 10 years in jail besides Rs 50,000 as penalty while mass conversions can lead to a jail term of three to 10 years and Rs 1 lakh penalty.

The new law also tightened the process of religious conversions as each individual intending to embrace another faith has to give notice to the district magistrate 60 days in advance.

Any person initiating someone into a religion, such as a priest, also needs to inform the district magistrate 30 days ahead of the ritual.

Once converted, the individual has to once again inform the district magistrate within 30 days. All converted persons would lose caste-based reservation benefits.

The Christian community has already expressed resentment about the law and expressed concerns at the possibility of misusing them to target anyone engaged in humanitarian work.

Swamy said he feared trouble as the state was heading to elections in another four months.

“That is another reason why we don’t want anything untoward to happen during the Christmas celebrations that are held from December 1 to 31 each year.”

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