More Religious Conversions in Kerala, Government Maintains Distance

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More Religious Conversions in Kerala, Government Maintains Distance

The ceremony in progress at a temple in Keyshavoor near Kayamkulam, Kerala.

Alappuzha, Kerala:  Eleven persons from three more families converted to Hinduism today in Kerala's Alappuzha district under the initiative of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP. This is the second instance of conversion within a week in the district. On Sunday, 30 people from 11 families had undergone religious conversion.

The ceremony was held at a temple in Keyshavoor near Kayamkulam. "Some of these people's ancestors had converted to other religion years ago," said a local VHP leader. The converts also included three couples who had undergone inter-faith marriage, he added.

Saffron groups call these programmes "ghar-vapsi", claiming the ancestors of such families were Hindus who had converted to other religions. 

In the wake of a nationwide controversy over religious conversions over the last few weeks, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today said no "forced conversions will work in Kerala" and that the state has always maintained a distance from this issue.

"The conversion was not compulsory," Mr Chandy said. "If there is a need for government intervention, the government will intervene. But we don't expect such a situation in Kerala".

The state government had ordered an investigation into Sunday's conversion. The preliminary investigation in the case has not found any evidence of "forceful conversion" to warrant a state intervention, sources said.

The Chief Minister's comments came a day after Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu underscored the Centre's position on the matter.

"The government does not have any religion. Only individuals have it," Mr Naidu said. "And if the law is being violated by anyone, they must be booked under the law by state governments including Kerala, where the Congress still rules."

The BJP is planning to bring in anti-conversion law across the country under which conversion by force or enticement will be punishable under law.

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