In opposition to the Freedom of Religion Bill 2017, christian bodies in Jharkhand under the aegis of secretary general, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das was “unable to control spread of ideological hatred” and it was time for him to “to go”. The catholic bodies in the state have also planned a protest rally for September 16, when BJP president Amit Shah will be on a three-day trip to Jharkhand.
The Freedom of Religion Bill, 2017 seeks to prevent religious conversion of people by force or allurement. Needless to say, many catholic groups that work to convert poor tribal people into Christianity forcifully or by allurement are angered by the new legislation.
Though CM Raghubar Das had stated that the bill was not framed to “target any religion”, a 13 September, letter by CBCI secretary general Rev Theodore Mascarenhas has a photograph an effigy of Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo being burnt attached and was allegedly done so at the best of activists from Hindu Jagran Manch — an affiliate of Sangh Parivar.
Saying that the picture haunted him, Mascarenhas writes:
Here is the burning of effigy of probably the most prominent and respected religious leader in Jharkhand…also an ambassador of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. History shows us that hatred, which begins as a tiny spark, can engulf into an unstoppable fire. As you know the burning of effigies can very well turn into physical violence.
Underlining the fact that sections 25-28 of the Constitution gave them the right to “preach, practice and propagate”, the letter further reads:
The whole nation applauded you when on Independence Day this year you gave a clarion call from the ramparts of Red Fort, ‘in the name of faith, violence cannot be allowed’.
If the Chief Minister is unable to control his ideological hatred, then it is time for him to go. Your party has many leaders, who can do a better job on all fronts.
On the other hand Hindu Jagaran Manch has hailed the Chief Minister’S approach in curbing unethical conversion of poorer sections of the society. Suman Kumar, zonal manager of Hindu Jagaran Manch’s says :
The Raghubar Das government has taken a solid step towards preventing illegal religious conversions. What is wrong must be stopped. The Church is not bigger than the administration.
The Freedom of Religion 2017 has already been implemented in many states and has contained the accelerated conversion of tribal people into Christianity, which has proved to be a big stumble block for missionary activites.