While the BJP government in Karnataka continues to make allegations of a rise in forced conversions, an official survey carried out in one of the districts that have been subject to these allegations raises questions on the validity of the claim.
Thippeswamy, a Tahasildar who surveyed illegal forced conversions in two villages of Hosadurga Taluk in Chitradurga district has now been transferred. In what is being seen as the repercussion for contesting the state government's claims through the survey, he has been stripped of official titles until further orders.
The survey was conducted to find out the total number of forced conversions but ended up revealing that no forced conversions have taken place, and people of the villages voluntarily attend the prayer meets.
"I have been transferred after the survey. No post has been allotted to me at the moment. I conducted the survey after several allegations of forced conversions in two villages. But when I enquired with the people, they said they were not lured with any benefits and converted out of their own will," the Tahasildar said.
Dismissing the survey, Prakash, the official spokesperson of the BJP in Karnataka, has said that the party continues to stand by the allegations of forced conversions by the Christian community.
"Gulihatti Shekar, who is an MLA, his mother herself was converted and she converted back to Hinduism. There are several instances of conversions taking place in those areas. An MLA certainly won't make such allegations without verified information. So, how the report by the Tahasildar has been prepared and where he enquired or investigated is not clear," the BJP spokesperson said.
The survey was ordered by the Tahasildar after Hosadurga MLA Gulihatti Chandrashekar made an allegation on the floor of the house that nearly 20,000 people in his constituency had converted to Christianity. He claimed his mother was one of them.
"The Tahasildar is a part of the government. In his report, he made it very clear that there are no forcible conversions. Hosadurga MLA Gulihatti Chandrashekar is saying that his mother was forcibly converted. He has to explain why his mother has converted to Christianity. He owes an explanation. We may have to draw an inference that there is a political motivation. We will oppose this (anti-conversion) bill in the assembly," said V.S. Ugrappa, Congress' state spokesperson.
Despite the survey showing no forced conversions in the two villages, and with no proper documentation to back the claims made by the Karnataka government, the BJP is due to place the anti-conversion bill by next week for discussion in the assembly.
The hotly debated proposed anti-conversion Bill that the state government plans to introduce in the assembly is expected to have penal provisions, and it may also insist that those who wish to convert to another faith file an application before the Deputy Commissioner two months prior.
People willing to convert to other religions are likely to lose the religion of their origin and facilities or benefits attached with it, including reservations. However, one is likely to receive the benefits entitled to in the religion he or she converts to. Congress has opposed the bill, calling it "unconstitutional" and detrimental to the state's interests.