Former India bureaucrats and diplomats call for repeal of anti-conversion law News
hari_mangayil / Pixabay
Former India bureaucrats and diplomats call for repeal of anti-conversion law

More than 100 retired bureaucrats and diplomats urged the chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to repeal a new law that criminalizes forced religious conversion of brides on Tuesday, warning that it risks fueling communal tensions.

Demanding withdrawal of the “illegal” ordinance and suitable compensation for those booked under it, the letter states:

It has become painfully evident that, in recent years, UP, once known as the cradle of the Ganga-Jamuna civilisation, has become the epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry and that the institutions of governance are now steeped in communal poison.

It terms the ordinance as a “heinous atrocity” committed against young Indians “who are simply seeking to live their lives as free citizens of a free country.” The letter goes on to add, “What is worse is that your law enforcement machinery, with the active backing of your government, is playing a role reminiscent of the secret police in authoritarian regimes.”

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance was passed last month. Section 3 of the ordinance prohibits a person from forcefully converting the religion of another by marriage. Violation of this provision is punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than one year but which may extend up to five years, and a minimum fine of 15,000 rupees. 

Critics of the law argue that it is an assault upon the freedom of choice and creates fear among minorities. On the other hand, the state government maintains that the ordinance only prohibits conversions that use dishonest means like false representation, through force, influence, torture, allurement, or for the sake of marriage. 

30 Muslim men were arrested in Uttar Pradesh under the law earlier this month. Public interest litigation challenging this ordinance is pending before the Supreme Court.