This Article is From Dec 21, 2014

Truth vs Hype: In BJP-run States, Sangh Outfits Flout The Anti-Conversion Law?

NDTV tested the claims made by the Sangh about the efficacy of the law in checking conversions in two BJP-run states, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

New Delhi: Defending their sudden spate of conversion activities, Sangh Parivar groups say they are only reacting to conversions by Christian and Muslim groups, whose proselytisation activities are altering India's demographics.

To this end, the BJP supports the demand for a national anti-conversion law.

At the moment, only five Indian states have such a law, according to which people have to report their intention to convert to district authorities. Evidence of inducement or coercion can result in heavy penalties, even imprisonment.

We tested the claims made by the Sangh about the efficacy of the law in monitoring conversions in two BJP-run states, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

In Gujarat's Dangs, a tribal-dominated district which has an active presence of Christian missionaries, and a five per cent Christian population, the district Collector has received no applications seeking conversion. Nor has a single complaint been registered under the Act in the district.

The same is the case in Madhya Pradesh's tribal-dominated Jhabua district, again a hub of missionary activity, but again no conversions registered nor any police complaints filed. Officials told NDTV's Siddharth Das that they don't have the manpower to monitor conversions.

When we asked Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai, he told NDTV that if 'they can give us a single case where there has been really fraud or really inducement, we will be happy to have it investigated."

At the same time, he reiterated the stance taken by Christian organisations that the law is designed in a way that it discourages genuine conversions from taking place.

"If you put impossible conditions or very difficult conditions then that is certainly hindering the freedom of religion. That I think is absolutely wrong. It might look okay on paper, its open to abuse, to prevent people from exercising their freedom to choose what they want to choose, that would certainly take India behind," he said.

Even if Christian groups are flouting the law, Sangh activists are free to register complaints with the administration. But as we found, not a single complaint has been registered in either of those districts.

In fact, ironically, the poor implementation of the laws allows the Sangh Parivar to also carry out its own conversions - what they call Ghar Wapasi or homecoming - without informing the administration.

In Madhya Pradesh, Khum Singh Maharaj, a functionary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad told NDTV that his group never alerts the district officials of their plans to convert. "If the Collector is not informing us (of the number of Christian conversions) then why should we," said Khum Singh.

According to Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde, Ghar Wapasi is not recognised as a legal concept.