Religious conversion row hits Parliament; Centre passes the buck to state govt

The issue of reported re-conversion of Muslim families to Hinduism in Agra, organised by an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), caused an uproar in both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

Religious conversion row hits Parliament; Centre passes the buck to state govt

1:30 pm: Senior BJP leader and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says “if some people have undergone religious conversion voluntarily, then it is their right”.

12:50 pm: Gaurav Bhatia, of the Samajwadi Party, describes religious conversion in Agra as “unfortunate”, says the incident shows how Central government is being run by outfits like the RSS and Bajrang Dal.

12:40 pm: BJP's Laxmikant Bajpai says “if willingly one is ready to convert religion then there is no issue, but if one is lured or forced then it is inappropriate”.

12:20 pm: Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leader Mahmood Madani says the people were lured into conversion in Agra is a violation of law. “ This is an attempt to disturb the peaceful environment in the nation,” alleges Mahmood Madani.

11:50 am: BJP leader Kalraj Mishra described the allegations as wrong, says conversions in Agra were not forced.  

11:35 am: VHP leader Prakash Sharma told Zee Media that a section of media is trying to portray the isues as forcible religious conversion. It is, however, a case of reconversion.

11:30 am: Meanwhile, ANI news agency has quoted a woman who attended the Dharam Jagran camp as saying that they were converted forcibly. “We did not know anything about it, we were forced to convert our religion. We were promised that our identity cards will be made. We were asked to dress properly, men were asked to wear caps,” the unnamed woman said.

11:20 am: Congress leader Manish Tewari called on the government to act in the matter. “If in a secular nation forcible religion conversion is taking place, the government must take action against people doing this,” he said.

11:15 am: The issue of reported re-conversion of Muslim families to Hinduism in Agra, organised by an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), caused an uproar in both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

BSP chief Mayawati raised the issue in Rajya Sabha as soon as the House met, demanding the government to answer on mass conversions in Agra. Mayawati said the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government must take the issue seriously, and added that communal forces needed to be stopped from doing such things. She alleged that the conversions were carried out by the RSS by giving inducements.

Speaking on behalf of the government, MoS for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said

that the government has nothing to do with this. While asking the opposition not to drag any organisation into the issue due to political reasons, Naqvi said the government was committed to secularism. “Law and order is a state subject; the state needs to act in the matter,” he stated in the Upper House.

Naqvi said an FIR has already been registered in the case.

The Congress, meanwhile, is reported to have moved a censure motion in the Lok Sabha over the matter.

11:10 am: At least 100 persons from 37 families were reportedly re-converted to Hinduism at a ceremony organised by an offshoot of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the cantonment area in Agra.

The Dharma Jagran cell of the RSS and Bajrang Dal claimed to have organised the joint mass conversion ceremony where about 100 people, mostly slum dwellers, were on Monday re-converted and "brought back to the Hindu fold" after a ritual that included tying of sacred threads on their wrists and putting vermilion mark on their foreheads.

"They were interested in coming back home (to the Hindu fold)," Rajeshwar Singh, area chief of the Dharma Jagran Samanvay Vibhag claimed.

He said the people who underwent conversion were from West Bengal and were living in slums ever since they had arrived here some 25 years ago.

The organisers of the event said the room in which the re-conversion ceremony took place was transformed into a makeshift temple and idols of Hindu gods and goddesses were placed there.

The converts would be given instructions to perform rituals according to Hindu religion for a month, the organisers said, adding that they will also be given new names soon.

Most of the coverts, who are primarily engaged in trash collection, shied away from speaking on the matter. They said that their contractor, Ismail, who had brought them from West Bengal, alone knew the reason for conversion.

While local Muslim leaders denounced the event as "drama", Abdul Quddoos Rumi, prominent Muslim religious leader from the city, said he could give a reply on the matter only after a query in Urdu was placed before him in a prescribed format. - PTI

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