Bhopal Archbishop speaks out against misuse of conversion law

Archbishop Leo Cornelio blamed fringe groups for the misuse, without naming any organization.

Bhopal: (UCAN) – Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal on Friday alleged that the anti-conversion law was being misused in Madhya Pradesh state, where false cases of forced conversion are slapped against Christians.

“Fringe groups try to take advantage of the fact that the BJP is in power,” the archbishop said, a week after 12 more people gathered in a house were arrested on charges of indulging in conversion.

Archbishop Cornelio's statement also came days after Catholic Secular Forum, a Mumbai based rights group in its annual report said Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of attacks on the minority community in 2015.

“Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has good intentions but there’s little one man can do when fringe groups feel it’s their own government,” he said, without naming any organization or group.

The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, passed some 50 years ago and amended in 2013, makes it mandatory to seek government permission before conversion and enhanced jail term for forced or induced conversions.

Responding to a query on conversions, Cornelio admitted that there are fundamentalists in every religion, but the religion itself can’t be blamed for it, The Indian Express reported.

“Thousands of students study in Christian schools but how many of them complain about conversion?” he said, adding that there could be “an odd case of conversion but without inducement. People are free to make their religious choices”.

He insisted that “conversion” was secondary because what ranks first is humanitarian service.

He also accused the state government of sitting on a proposal to hand over a couple of government schools in backward areas to improve education.

“They provide free mid-day meals, uniforms and books but no education is imparted,” Cornelio said, adding that he had personally spoken to the chief minister the idea. A proposal was sent nearly a year ago but the government has not acted on it, he said.

However, Education Minister Deepak Joshi told The Indian Express that he had only received an oral proposal, and not a written one. “It’s not easy because the infrastructure and teachers belong to the government. I am open to the idea if they send a proper proposal,” he said.

He also cited an example of a school run by an educational society set up by the majority community, which provides free food, uniform, books and education to students without any help from the government.

The minister said the school in Ratibad, on the outskirts of Bhopal, plans to provide free education to about 1,000 children in the future. “I have visited the school and will take the chief minister there,” he said.

Source: Indian express

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