Gujarat Religion Law Hotly Contested

September 20, 2006

Source: BBC News

On September 20, 2006 BBC News reported, "Christians and Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat have expressed resentment over an amendment in the law relating to religious conversions. They say that moves by the state government to classify Buddhism and Jainism as branches of the Hindu religion are unconstitutional. Christians and Muslims have accused the authorities of trying to polarise the state along religious lines. But backers of the amendment say it will protect low caste Hindus... They say that such groups are vulnerable to exploitation and pressure for them to convert, which is undermining India's Hindu culture. Under the Indian constitution, Buddhism and Jainism are classified as separate religions. But under the terms of the amendment passed by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Gujarat government on Tuesday, both are classified as part of the Hindu religion. That means that Buddhists and Jains will not need official permission to change religion, because it would be deemed to be an 'inter-denomination conversion'... People convicted of carrying out conversions using allurement or force face lengthy prison terms and fines."