The Indian government has no plans to implement a nationwide anti-conversion law, Home Affairs Minister G Kishan Reddy informed Parliament in New Delhi on 2 February.
The minister’s reply to a question raised by five MPs following the introduction of a new freedom of religion law in Uttar Pradesh and tightened legislation in Madhya Pradesh, both Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governed states, allayed concerns that federal anti-conversion legislation may be planned.
When asked if the government thought that marriages between Hindus and those of other religions were happening due to “forced conversions”, Reddy stated that issues related to religious conversions are primarily the concern of the state governments and union territory administrations.
Anti-conversion laws are in place in nine of India’s 29 states, which prohibit conversions using force, allurement or fraud. The existence of these laws makes Christians actively sharing their faith vulnerable to false accusation.
The four states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand include penalties for religious conversion associated with marriage. In Madhya Pradesh there is a jail term of up ten years, and in the other three states of up to five years. Some critics say anti-conversion legislation is designed to curb the so-called “Love-Jihad” operations of Muslim organisations who lure non-Muslim girls into marriage to Muslim men, which obliges the brides to convert to Islam in accordance with sharia.