Mumbai city fumes at Gujaratís Bill on conversion

by Shabana Ansari/ Shobha Viswanathan, DNA India, September 21, 2006

Mumbai, India -- The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 passed by the Gujarat assembly on Tuesday has come in for criticism from people of various faiths.

The act allows intra-religious conversion — Shia to Sunni, Protestant to Catholic — but requires government permission for inter-religious conversions. It also makes Buddhism and Jainism sub-sects of Hinduism, so allows free conversions between the three. Mumbaikars react to Narendra Modi’s “draconian” law.

Abraham Mathai, general secretary of All India Christian Council : “The bill goes against the spirit of the free and secular constitution of our country which guarantees every individual a right to practice and propagate his faith.

Asghar Ali Engineer, Islamic scholar: “The anti-conversion law and its amendment are unnecessary and absurd in a democratic country. It’s nothing but total ignorance on the part of the Gujarat government to club Jains and Buddhists with the Hindus.

Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of BR Ambedkar: Clubbing Buddhism and Jainism with the Hindu religion is against the basic tenets of all three religions. An act like this will only further the religious divide in society.

Ramesh Dave, director of Anantacharya Indological Research Institute: Jainism is not a part of Hinduism. Even though both Jainism and Hinduism have some common beliefs and common roots, they are different religions.”

Nitin Raut, all-India general secretary, Bodh Gaya Mahavihar Mukti Morcha: Buddhism was never a part of Hinduism.

The Gujarat anti-conversion Act is draconian in nature. A Buddhist never considers himself as a Hindu and he never prays to any Hindu gods.”

Nikhil Wagle, editor, Mahanagar: “It is nothing but an RSS agenda to raise communal passions and Narendra Modi’s tactic to try and win the next assembly elections.

Disillusioned Hindus like BR Ambedkar had renounced their religion to embrace other faiths that did not treat them like second-class citizens.