Tamil Nadu's anti-conversion ordinance becomes permanent law
As expected, the legislative assembly in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu created a law prohibiting religious conversion by "force, allurement, or fraudulent means." The state government had earlier issued the conversion ban as a decree, but yesterday's 140-73 vote makes it law.
Under the law, anyone found "inducing" people to convert may be imprisoned for three years and heavily fined. Religiously motivated aid and relief workers say this puts their work at tremendous risk. Also, anyone coverting to another religion must have it approved by a district magistrate.
The Hindu, a national Indian newspaper that's not as partisan in this controversy as its name might suggest, is quick to dismiss reports that the law is just about forced conversions. The chief minister's "arguments in the course of the three-hour debate were against conversion itself. … Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, [Chief Minister J] Jayalalithaa sought to justify a ban on all conversions." the paper says. It quotes her saying, "Conversions create resentment among several sections and also inflame religious passions, leading to communal clashes."
The paper says that although the bill was overwhelmingly passed, yesterday saw "one of the fiercest and lengthiest debates in the Assembly yet."
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