An anti-conversion law recently passed by the parliament of the Indian state of Rajasthan that would prohibit any Hindu from joining another religion was rejected by the governor of the state, Pratibha Patil, thus increasing hopes at least temporarily for the survival the small Catholic community there.
According to the FIDES news agency, Governor Patil sent the bill back to the state parliament and called it “a direct violation of every citizen’s right to freedom of religion.” Unless she signs the bill it cannot come into force. Religious minority leaders were pleased by the decision. “This was an act of courage, of even greater value because it was the act of a woman governor,” they said.
The bill approved by the governing Baratiya Janata Party and other sectors of the majority, punishes those who convert to other religions with prison sentences and steep fines.
The bill had already been criticized by leaders of various Christian confessions and Muslim communities in Rajasthan who appealed to the central Indian government to withhold assent to the law which, they said, violates articles 19 and 25 of the national Constitution guaranteeing all citizens freedom of conscience and religion. “The bill is on the nationalist and intolerant agenda of the Baratiya Janata Party”, said the religious minority leaders, noting that the bill bans conversion from Hinduism to other religions but not vice versa.