The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet on Saturday approved the Dharma Swatantrya (Religious Freedom) Bill 2020, which, if passed into law, could send someone for up to ten years in prison with a fine of up to rupees one lakh. According to state Home Minister Narottam Mishra, the Bill is aimed at preventing “forceful religious conversion” for interfaith marriages.
News agency ANI quoted Mishra saying, “Under new Bill, forcing religious conversion on someone will attract 1-5 yrs of imprisonment & a minimum Rs 25,000 fine.”
Under the new MP Freedom of Religion Bill 2020, forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, would draw a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000: Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra https://t.co/yYErFH85fH pic.twitter.com/rJM0lfZU3p
— ANI (@ANI) December 26, 2020
In case of forced conversion of a minor, woman or a person from Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the accused “would draw a minimum jail term of two to 10 years with a minimum penalty of Rs 50,000.” If the person converted, however, belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or is underaged, the crime would draw a minimum jail term of 2-10 years with a maximum penalty of rupees one lakh. “This bill will replace the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 (after the approval by the state Assembly),” Mishra said.
Crackdown On MP’s Forced Religious Conversions
Further, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told ANI, “We won’t allow forced conversions in Madhya Pradesh. Under new bill, anyone who does it will face jail term up to 10 yrs & minimum Rs 50,000 fine. Many incidents came to light where minor girls were converted, married & made to contest Panchayat polls (Sic).”
We won't allow forced conversions in Madhya Pradesh. Under new bill, anyone who does it will face jail term up to 10 yrs & minimum Rs 50,000 fine. Many incidents came to light where minor girls were converted, married & made to contest Panchayat polls: MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan https://t.co/yYErFH85fH pic.twitter.com/5dcUVBXYlh
— ANI (@ANI) December 26, 2020
MP’s Bill Comes Following UP’s Love Jihad Law
The Bill was cleared in a meeting of the Cabinet led by Chouhan, ahead of a three-day session of the Assembly, beginning on December 28, reported The Indian Express. It was proposed in the wake when several states are moving to curb cases of love jihad.
Though a political term but the alleged love jihad cases have been in the news ever since leaders in several states have announced the possible introduction of a punishable law against this practice. It refers to the cases in which the Hindu girls’ parents claim that Muslim youths force their girls to convert in the guise of love. Read more on that here.
Last month, the Yogi Adityanath-led government also passed a similar law called the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, which has already been put into practice in the state. Governments in Haryana, Assam, and Karnataka too have promised to enact a law against love jihad very soon.
Feature Image Credit: Gravity Gate
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