Jain and Buddhist, Not Hindu!

By Amaninder Pal Sharma, OhMyNews, Sept 21, 2006

Outrage in Gujarat as state government passes amendment on anti-conversion law

Seoul, South Korea -- There is controversy in the Indian state of Gujarat after its government passed an amendment on Tuesday which, if approved by Governor Nawal Kishore, will mean that Buddhists and Jains are legally classified as Hindus.

The Gujarat state government is controlled by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), a right-wing Hindu nationalist party.

The amendment is to an anti-conversion law which was passed in March 2003. Under the 2003 law, conversion within a religion is allowed, so it is acceptable for Catholics to become Protestants and for Shias to become Sunnis, but conversions between religions are not permitted without permission from the government.

Under the amendment as Buddhists and Jains are classified as denominations of Hinduism, they will be allowed to convert to Hinduism.

The amendment was introduced because the government has not yet been able to enforce the 2003 law, and it was hoped that this latest development would help.

In my opinion this act is typical of the BJP, who are against all religious minorities in India, and if Jains and Buddhists protest it is likely that they will become victims of the government's chavinistic politics.

The BJP defend the law by saying that it is to protect poor Hindus at the bottom of the caste system from being enticed or forced to convert. Christian missionaries have been accused of using enticements to convert poor Hindus to Christianity. There are also allegations against Muslims.

There is nothing in practice which reveals forced conversion from one religion to another in India. But owing to the progressive bent of ideology in religions like Jainism and Buddhism, and to the injustices and atrocities of the Hindu caste system, many lower caste Hindus (Dalits) are attracted to Jainism and Buddhism.

Critics of the new law say that it is unconstitutional. The Indian constitution recognizes the true fact that Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism are three separate religions. This means that it may not be possible to enforce the amendment.

Speaking in The Hindustan Times the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Hamid Ansari, said:

"I think legislators cannot, and should not, decide the religious identity of a community this way. This decision has to be taken by the community itself in a democratic manner."