The streets of Bangalore saw an outpour of citizens in large numbers to protest against the anti-people and unconstitutional ‘Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021’. On December 21st more than 40 organisations demanded that the Bill be withdrawn as the Government of Karnataka is trampling upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy and dignity.
Eminent speakers from all religious groups at the protest made the following points:
- The Supreme Court has recognised that individuals have the freedom to dress, eat and practise the faith the way they want. By seeking to target conversions the Bill interferes with both the human right to dignity and the freedom to practise the faith of their choice.
- The bill is not just an attack on religion but an attack on all women since it presumes that women from Dalit and Scheduled Caste communities do not have the agency to decide the religion they want to belong to. The government should instead pay attention to problems of nutrition, unemployment and rising violence against women.
- The bill harms not only Christians but also many other communities. Many laws exist already to prevent forced conversions. The Christian community has always served the country and its poor, and forced conversions are a mortal sin.
- All supporters of the bill in the State Assembly should resign because they won the elections on the basis of the constitution and promised development, progress and communal harmony. If they cannot deliver on these promises, they have no right to continue in office.
- The law was being formulated without any discussion with experts and lawyers. The author of the Indian Constitution, B.R.Ambedkar had declared that people should not be born into a religion but should be allowed to choose their faith.
- The Bill is a fascist attack on minorities, women and the oppressed in Indian society. The Chief Minister had called conversion a big disease, a statement which highlights how the fascist political project is being implemented through the law.
- An activist with 40 years of experience working with slum residents, Dalits and women said she had not converted even one individual. The bill is anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and anti-Buddhist.
Large numbers of people gathered to register their protest against this unconstitutional bill. Through speeches, resistance music and constitutional slogans they demanded that the Government take back the bill.
The bill casts a criminal shadow on children’s homes, schools and medical work. Providing homes for children and the homeless, giving fee scholarships for school children and providing free medical care or at concessional rates can all be considered as inducements to conversion and render their providers liable for prosecution. One Christian institution will have to ask all beneficiaries to give legal affidavits in writing that any service provided for them is without any attempt to change their religion.