Gujarat state acts on a political criteria

CNN-IBN, September 22, 2006 at 14:22

New Delhi, India -- The Freedom of Religion (amendment) Bill 2006, which the Gujarat Assembly passed on Tuesday, has created a furore among Christians, Jains and Buddhists across the country.

Christians in the state are opposing the Bill because they believe will it alienate them further. Jains and Buddhists are angry for being bracketed with the Hindus.

They say it is very damaging to their identity.

While the Gujarat government is already under fire for being hostile to the minorities, the questions that everybody wants answers to are:

Is this law yet another political gimmick to consolidate the Hindutva vote and should Jains and Buddhist be classified as Hindus?

Gujarat BJP leader Jai Narayan Vyas said, "This is not a political gimmick to consolidate the Hindutva vote for the simple reason that Gujarat is not the first and the only state to pass the law. Other states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu have passed the law before.”

The BJP, during the 2002 assembly elections, had promised that it would introduce a Bill to check religious conversions and therefore, according to Vyas, there was no reason for the hue and cry that the incident has led to.

Vyas defended the BJP by saying that the party were not stopping anyone from practising their religion. He said that the BJP was merely following what had already been said in the Constitution in clubbing together some religions.

"Go back to the Constitution. Sub-clause B of Clause 25 says that people who are practising Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists will be reffered to as Hindus," he said.

Vyas also hastened to explain that the amendment in no way meant that the BJP was converting people. He in fact stated that the BJP was following the law by not interfering with with the freedom of practising religion.

He also explained that the party was completely against conversions of any sort. "The Supreme Court has stated that there is no such thing as a 'fundamental right to convert any person to one’s own religion'. To this effect, the amended law definitely tries to curb conversion for people are converted from one religion to another through fraudulent means, force or some kinds of allurement," said Vyas.