The Himachal Pradesh Assembly, in line with a few other BJP-ruled states, passed a bill on Saturday to curb "mass conversion" and raise the maximum punishment to 10 years of imprisonment in its 2019 law against any change of religion through force or allurement.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on Saturday briefed the media after the conclusion of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly Monsoon Session at Vidhan Sabha in Shimla.
Speaking on the Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill 2022, Thakur said to reporters, "I respect all religions. Religion is a matter of an individual's personal devotion and beliefs. In the past few decades, in an organized and premeditated fashion, specific communities of the state have been systematically targeted for "illegal conversion" - through falsification of facts, misrepresentation, financial/monetary enticements gullible citizens in large numbers have been converted to other religions."
"These activities are an abomination to our state and must be dealt with and stopped with immediately," he further added.
"In 2006, the law was brought into effect with fewer protections and stipulations. But it was felt that the Act needed to be strengthened and the provisions thereof be made more stringent," Thakur stated.
The Act was further amended in 2019, but the amendments passed today are the first of their kind in the country, across all states. The Act has been strengthened with stringent provisions and the positive effect of these will be seen in our society in the years to come, he further added.
When asked about Clause 7 - regarding curtailing the rights of the Scheduled Castes, Thakur said, "With all due respect to all the communities, the Act does not exclude or target any community or group. But, in line with the provisions of the Constitution of India, if an individual, enjoying certain benefits on account of their religion, were to choose to convert to another religion, then they must give up the rights to those benefits as well since the religion they are embracing does not accord them those benefits."
Earlier today, the Himachal Pradesh Assembly passed the Freedom of Religion Bill 2022. The bill has been brought to curb illegal religious conversions in Himachal Pradesh and proposes a higher jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 2 lakh. (ANI)