In the wake of Karnataka government passing an ordinance against religious conversion, the Archbishop of Bengaluru Peter Machado on Monday said the government was influenced by certain groups to sideline minorities.
“Perhaps, the government is influenced or forced by certain groups, certain categories of people, who are forcing the government to sideline the minorities,” Machado told reporters after meeting Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot.
A delegation comprising six people, including bishops and priests, called on Gehlot at the Raj Bhavan and appealed to him to stop the promulgation of the ordinance which was recently passed by the cabinet.
To a query on the possibility of approaching court, Machado said that has not been decided, but it would be one of the options to stop the promulgation of the anti-conversion ordinance.
“If the ordinance is promulgated, then, we surely have to see ways and means of finding resources for us from different sides and legal route is also one of the things we may take to," he said.
Wondering as to why the government passed the ordinance, he said the Bharatiya Janata Party government is a good one.
“I must say Karnataka government is a good government in the whole of India. Somehow, the question you are asking me is like poking me,” said the archbishop while replying to a query.
Appreciating the governor for being cordial and hearing them patiently, Machado said, “We trust the governor to report our feelings and, as far as possible, to stop passing this ordinance because we have mentioned clearly that this is not necessary.”
He said Christians are a peace-loving people and there have not been any incident of conversion reported in the past two or three months.
Also, there were no incidents of serious attacks, he added.
The archbishop said the government might have sent a message to those creating trouble which, he felt, was a good move.
“But, passing the ordinance all-of-a-sudden came as a little surprise as well as sad for us because India is a democratic country and Karnataka has got democratic traditions,” Machado said.
The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill was passed by the legislative assembly in December last, but it is pending for passage in the legislative council wherein the ruling BJP is one short of majority.
The Bill that was passed by the legislative assembly provides for protection of right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means.
It moots imprisonment from three to five years with a fine of Rs 25,000, while for violation of provisions with respect to minors, women, SC/ST, the offenders will face imprisonment from three to 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 50,000.
The Bill makes also provisions for an accused to pay up to Rs 5 lakh as compensation to those who were made to convert, and with regard to cases of mass conversion there shall be a 3-10 year jail-term and a fine of up to Rs one lakh.
It states that any marriage, which has happened for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion or vice-versa by the man of one religion with the woman of another, either by converting himself before or after marriage or by converting the woman before or after marriage, shall be declared as null and void by the family court.