Now Shivraj Singh Chouhan joins religious conversion debate 


Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. File

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

Addressing a ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas’ programme in Madhya Pradesh’s Shahdol district on Tuesday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that he would not let the vicious cycle of religious conversions continue in the State.

Explaining the merits of the implementation of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in the State, one that was flagged off by President Droupadi Murmu at the event, the Chief Minister said the new rules would pave way for the reversal of land ownership. According to him, in cases where the land was deceitfully transferred by someone [a tribal who has converted to another religion] in his name after marrying a tribal woman, the Gram Sabhas could intervene under the new rules. 

“… many people create a vicious circle of religious conversion. Brothers and sisters, we will not allow conversions to continue on this land of Madhya Pradesh. Tell me, should it be allowed to continue?” he said.

The remarks came a day after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat appealed to tribals “to stay strong against those who try to dupe them by taking advantage of their innocence” in neighbouring Chhattisgarh and the Supreme Court said religious conversions by means of force, allurement or fraud may “ultimately affect the security of the nation and freedom of religion and conscience of citizens”.

Mr. Bhagwat had made the remarks after unveiling the statue of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and Union Minister, the late Dilip Singh Judeo, a well-known anti-conversion crusader who hailed from Jashpur. His visit to Chhattisgarh, the second this year, has triggered a debate around religious conversions with the BJP aggressively attacking the Congress for letting it continue.

Tribal votes crucial 

Tribals comprise 21% and 32% of the population in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively. Both the States will go to polls in less than a year and tribal votes are widely perceived as holding the key to the electoral prospects of the BJP and the Congress.

The Congress performed better than the BJP in both places in the 2018 Assembly elections; it rules Chhattisgarh and sits in the Opposition in MP. As for the BJP, it holds the Congress responsible for conversions in both States and the apex court’s remarks have given it a shot in the arm.

“What can be a bigger validation for our stance on the need for stronger laws against forceful religious conversions than the Supreme Court saying that these are a threat to national security. This is an evil created by the Congress and their people are hand in glove with those behind it. Religious conversions have been happening in the tribal areas for quite some time. However, the big difference from the past and now is that they get caught,” said Madhya Pradesh BJP spokesperson Lokendra Parashar about his government that passed anti-conversion legislation last year.


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