Himachal Bans "Mass Conversion", 10-Year Jail For Forced Religion Change

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was passed unanimously with a voice vote.

The Himachal Pradesh Assembly, in line with a few other BJP-ruled states, passed a bill on Saturday forbidding "mass conversion" and raising the maximum punishment to 10 years imprisonment in its 2019 law against any change of religion through force or allurement.

The moves comes ahead of the assembly election in the hill state later this year.

The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was passed unanimously with a voice vote.

"Mass conversion" in the bill is described as two or more people converting at the same time, and proposes to increase the punishment for forced conversions to a maximum of 10 years from seven years.

The Jai Ram Thakur-led government introduced the bill on Friday. It is a more stringent version of The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2019, which came into force barely 18 months ago.

The 2019 Act was notified on December 21, 2020, 15 months after it was passed in the state assembly. The 2019 version had in turn replaced a 2006 law, which prescribed lesser punishments.

Introducing the bill in the assembly on Friday, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the 2019 Act did not have a provision to curb mass conversion, and "therefore, a provision to this effect is being made."

The BJP has been a vocal supporter of anti-conversion laws and many party-ruled states have introduced similar measures.

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