Bhopal: Days after the Madhya Pradesh government passed a new anti-conversion law in the Assembly, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has claimed that it has identified the missionaries and priests who were allegedly carrying ‘illegal conversion’ in the tribal dominated districts of the state.
In a first such attempt, the VHP has claimed of submitting a list of 56 missionaries with the names of priests who are active in tribal dominated Jhabua and Alirajpur districts. These missionaries are alluring tribals to embrace Christianity, claimed Milind Parande, the right wing outfit’s national general secretary, on March 11. However, collectors of both the districts have denied receiving any such lists.
The VHP’s special wing, Dharma Prasar Vibhag, has been reportedly assigned to identify the missionaries and priests who were allegedly illegally converting tribals to Christianity and prepare their list. It has also been asked to keep vigil on the cases of ‘love jihad’, Parande added during the press conference in Bhopal.
The VHP office bearers were addressing a press conference in Bhopal following the completion of the Ram Temple donation drive and claimed to have collected nearly Rs 200 crore from MP.
These claims by the VHP comes in the wake of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Government’s passing of a new anti-conversion law, Freedom of Religion Act-2021 on March 8 in the Assembly with a voice vote.
The new law replaced the existing Freedom of Religion Ordinance -2020 which was passed by the cabinet in December last year and later cleared by the Governor on January 9, 2021.
Also read: MP Passes Anti-conversion Bill by Voice Vote Amid Opposition by Congress
The new law has a provision of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for conversion through allurement, forced marriage, misrepresentation, among other things. It also has provisions of annulling marriages by unfair means, makes conversion a non-bailable offence and empowers Sessions court to hear cases, while transferring the onus of proving innocence on the accused. Under this law, the government can penalise the organisation and NGOs organising and funding unlawful marriages.
Ajay Bagadiya, senior advocate of High Court, pointed out that to register a case under the new anti-conversion law, a crime mentioned in section 3 of the Act has to have happened, which is punishable under section 5. “And if that happens than anyone, whether priest, pandit, moulvi or common man can be accused for conversion,” he added.
He further said that according to the new act, NGOs and social groups can't file complain against any individual or institution alleging conversion or force marriage, except the victim, her parents, guardian or blood relatives.
A senior government official reiterated the point saying that on the basis of complaints by NGOs, social groups or any other individual, police or collector cannot take action until the victim has approached them and demanded action.
According to Home Minister Narottam Mishra, as he claimed in the House while presenting the Bill, 23 cases had been registered across the state in the first month since the previous law was introduced, hinting that the new law was introduced due to the large number of cases. However, contrary to Mishra’s claim, the list of cases provided by the state police said that only 16 cases have been registered in the last two months. Of it, six cases are against either missionaries or their priests.
“We have recently visited the Malwa region of the state, which comprises districts like Jhabua, Alirajpur, Dhar, Mandsaur, Ujjain, among others; where conspiracies are being hatched to convert tribals to Christianity by allurement and it should be stopped immediately with the new conversion law,” said VHP’s Parande at the press conference.
Further spelling the details of VHP’s future plans towards Hindus, he said that the outfit is keeping an eye on the issues like illegal conversion by missionaries, love-jihad, entry of Bangladeshi Muslims in the country and stopping the “terrors of naxalism and communism” and upliftment of the marginalised class.
Also read: MP Police Book 11 for 'Forcing' Tribals to Convert to Christianity Under New Anti-conversion Law in Indore
Before concluding his address, Parande also said that they are in touch with other BJP-ruled states to frame laws for gau-raksha and against “love jihad”. He told the media, “Such laws for the benefit of Hindus are very important and we will try to bring them into effect. Law against love jihad is also a part of a larger design.”
When contacted, Surbhi Gupta, collector of Alirajpur, and Alok Kumar Singh, collector of Dhar, denied receiving any such letter from the VHP, listing names of missionaries and priests.