10/14/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – According to the International Business Times, the government in India’s Karnataka state as ordered officers to investigate both official and non-official Christian missionaries. The order comes as Karnataka prepares to enact an anti-conversion law that would regulate religious conversions and criminalize forced religious conversions.
The decision to investigate Christian missionaries was taken during a meeting on Wednesday by the Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Committee. Several state legislators, including BJP MLA Goolihatti Shekar, took part in the meeting. Shekar reportedly advocated for the registration of Christian missionaries and claimed that 40% of churches in Karnataka are unofficial and not recognized by the state.
In addition to these actions, members of the committee also discussed withdrawing government benefits from individuals who convert from Hinduism to Christianity.
In recent weeks, BJP members of the Karnataka government have made statements supporting the enactment of an anti-conversion law. According to these politicians, conversions to Christianity in Karnataka have gotten out of control and a law must be brought to regulate conversions and punish forced conversions.
“The government is studying laws implemented in this regard by the various state governments in the country,” Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, said. “The law in this regard will be enacted soon in Karnataka.”
Shekar raised the issue of religious conversions on the floor of the Assembly during the Monsoon Session, claiming his mother converted to Christianity without his knowledge. Earlier this week, Shekar reported to the media that his mother participated in a ‘Ghar Wapsi’ program and converted back to Hinduism.
Across India, radical Hindu nationalists use the specter for mass conversions to Christianity and Islam to enact laws limiting the religious freedom of minorities. According to these nationalists, masses of low caste Hindus are converted to Christianity and Islam through illicit means and a law must be enacted to stop this from happening.
Article 25 of India’s constitution, however, protects the rights an individual to freely profess, practice, and propagate the religion of their choice. The anti-conversion laws enacted in other states limit this constitutional right by requiring individuals to have their conversions approved by the government. In addition to this, individuals from low caste backgrounds face the consequence of losing government benefits when converting from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam.
Radical Hindu nationalists also use anti-conversion laws as legal cover when persecuting Christians and closing churches. After assaulting a pastor or disrupting a church service, radicals falsely accused their victims of engaging in conversions to justify their criminal actions. As a result, police arrest the Christians and allow the radicals to go free.