Anti-conversion bill gets Karnataka legislative council nod amid stir

Anti-conversion bill gets Karnataka legislative council nod amid stir

Bengaluru: The Karnataka legislative council on Thursday approved the controversial anti-conversion bill by a voice vote in the absence of the Opposition Congress, which walked out of the House.

The bill was passed by the Karnataka legislative assembly, the lower house, in December last year. The government will now send the bill for governor’s assent.

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, better known as anti-conversion bill, was passed after heated exchanges between the ruling BJP government and the Congress, with the latter targeting the Basavaraj Bommai regime for using the bill to “torture”, “exploit”, “promote hate” — and then staging a walk out after almost seven hours of debate.

“There is no hidden agenda in the bill…no vote bank politics in this bill,” Araga Jnanendra, Karnataka’s minister for home affairs, said.

“There are no restrictions for anyone to convert. Only that it should not be forceful, influenced or by allurement. The person converting will also lose benefits that they were availing from their parent community,” Jnanendra said.

The government stated in December that the bill was being introduced to bring “public order” . It also pointed out that the then Congress government first initiated the legislation 2016.

But the Congress and other opposition parties opposed the bill on the grounds that it seeks to polarise society.

The new law, according to the government, aims to stop conversion by “force, allurement or fraud” and also imposes a heavy penalty, including jail terms up to 10 year and a fine of 1 lakh. The law states that no one should be converted by another “by use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by any of these means or by promise of marriage, nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion”.

“This is being done to expand Hindutva from Mangaluru (coastal region) to other parts. For those who do moral policing, this (bill) will become a ‘Brahmastra (super weapon)’. This has been brought in only for politics,” Nagaraj Yadav of the Congress said, demanding that the bill be withdrawn.

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