Religious conversion issue rocks Lok Sabha, government proposes law
The issue of alleged forced conversions in Agra rocked the Lok Sabha Thursday, even as the government proposed an anti-conversion law at both the central and state levels.
New Delhi: The issue of alleged forced conversions in Agra rocked the Lok Sabha Thursday, even as the government proposed an anti-conversion law at both the central and state levels.
The opposition attacked the government over the conversion issue, saying it was "polarising" the country.
The government on its part hit back by saying that the matter was blown out of proportion and was "false propaganda".
"Let there be anti-conversion law in all states and at the Centre. We are all one," Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said replying to a discussion on the issue.
"There were laws made in some states after they realised that fraudulent conversions are taking place," he said.
He said the entire issue was a false propaganda against the government.
Naidu strongly defended the RSS and said it was wrong to blame the organisation for such incidents.
At this point, the opposition walked out, protesting the minister's defence of the RSS and Naidu had to conclude his remarks without their presence.
Earlier, opening the debate from the opposition benches in the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said the government was trying to polarise the country and demanded a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the matter.
"This is against the Constitution. It (government) wants to digress from real issues like black money, rail fare hike and incursions by China. So, it has started this campaign for polarisation," he said.
The alleged forcible conversion of about 300 Muslims in Agra had found its echo in parliament on Wednesday as well.
Nearly 300 members of some 60 Muslim families living in a settlement on Agra's outskirts were reported to have embraced Hinduism Monday.
The debate on the issue Thursday took place under rule 193, which does not entail voting, after almost all opposition parties staged vociferous protests as soon as the house assembled in the morning.
Members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Communist Party of India-Marxist gathered near the speaker's podium, and raised slogans like "Modi sarkar hosh mein aao" (Wake up, Modi government) and "Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai" (Hindus, Muslims are brothers).
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said the matter should be taken "seriously". "Otherwise, there might be riots".
However, when the discussion began in the afternoon, a mellowed down Mulayam Singh said there was no need to discuss the matter.
"I don't understand why and for what is the debate taking place," he said, wondering if "newspaper reports would now run the parliament".
Uttar Pradesh has a Samajawadi Party government with Mulayam Singh's son Akhilesh Yadav as the chief minister.
CPI-M member M. Salim said that on the one hand, the prime minister talks about development but incidents like these across the country show the contrary.
"Our Constitution does not permit such incidents," he said, adding it was an attempt at polarisation.
Trinamool's Saugata Roy said the Bhagavad Gita does not teach us this. "I cannot impose my views on other people. Let us give up this divisive attitude for political gains," he said.
BJP member from Rajasthan Sumedhanand Sarawati said incidents of conversion were rampant during the middle ages specially during Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's rule.
"Gandhiji also said Hindus were being converted to Christianity by being offered incentives," he said.
Another BJP member Rajendra Agrawal said the issue of forced conversion over the ages needs to be addressed.
He gave examples of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and said it was "painful to see a mosque built there".
Outside the Lok Sabha, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said religious conversion was a "very serious" issue and asked all opposition parties to be serious on the issue.
"The issue of religious conversion is very serious. The BJP and its other organisations like the RSS, Bajrang Dal and others, although want to create communal tension in the entire country... in this particular issue, they (BJP) have made Uttar Pradesh their main adda (hub). All opposition parties should become serious on this issue."
Congress leader Digvijay Singh slammed the government for suggesting that a legislation can be brought to ban religious conversions, saying it was an infringement of fundamental rights.