Bengaluru: Within days of filing a report punching holes in a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA’s claims of forced religious conversions, a tehsildar in Karnataka has been transferred.
Hosadurga tehsildar Y. Thippeswamy had filed a report on 1 December saying there were no instances of forced conversions in the town located in Chitradurga district. This contradicted BJP MLA Goolihatti Shekhar’s allegations that people from Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) communities were being forcefully converted to Christianity.
Now, the tehsildar has been transferred in what the government has deemed “routine transfer”.
“Due process has been followed. He had been in office for two years now. There is no connection between the transfer and his report on religious conversions,” Kavitha S. Mannikeri, Deputy Commissioner, Chitradurga, told ThePrint Friday.
Sources in the tehsildar’s office said Y. Thippeswamy’s ill-health over the last two weeks was among the reasons cited for his transfer. The officer has not been given any alternate posting so far.
While the district administration has stood by his findings, the MLA has called the report “all lies”.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government is set to introduce the controversial anti-conversion bill, citing precedence in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others.
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The inquiry report
BJP MLA Goolihatti Shekhar stirred up a hornet’s nest in September this year when he alleged that his mother had been lured to convert into the Christian faith, adding that thousands from SC, ST and OBC communities were being lured by Christian missionaries.
Shekhar even ordered a survey of all Christian missionaries and churches in the state. His allegation got the wheels moving on the anti-conversion bill in Karnataka. His mother returned to the Hindu fold in October, he told ThePrint earlier, but insisted that thousands from his community were still being lured.
Following the allegations, Chitradurga deputy commissioner ordered an inquiry to check forced conversions in Hosadurga, Shekhar’s home turf. The report punched holes in the MLA’s claims.
“Prayers meetings are held every Friday and Sunday in five churches and prayer halls in Hosadurga. Those participating are doing so out of free will and not under any allurement or inducement. They are also not receiving any benefits from the government,” said the two-page report. ThePrint has accessed a copy of the report.
The report added that all families that have converted to Christianity have denied claims of inducement or force. “There have been no forced conversions as claimed. We have inquired thoroughly,” Mannikeri told ThePrint Thursday.
BJP MLA says report’s findings are lies
However, the report denying the allegations of forced conversions, has done little to alter Shekhar’s stance.
“Of course they have been tutored to say that they haven’t been forced. These missionaries lure them at their worst emotional or economic despair,” Goolihatti Shekhar told ThePrint Friday.
“One line in the report also says that there were no photos of Hindu Gods in the homes of those who converted,” Shekhar pointed out.
Asked how the government would then determine what mandates inducement or allurement, Shekhar said: “This will all be over if we cut off their benefits. If one converts from a family then either the father, brother, cousin brothers should be allowed to file a police complaint.”
The BJP legislator rejected the possibility that it would be an infringement of individual right to religion.
Also read: Karnataka to pass anti-conversion bill as Hindutva groups target Christians & churches
Cabinet set to clear anti-conversion bill
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is all set to place the controversial anti-conversion bill before the state cabinet. A cabinet meeting has been called for on 20 December where the draft bill is likely to be proposed for clearance.
Sources from the Chief Minister’s Office confirmed to ThePrint that the draft bill prepared by the state government’s law department will be put before the cabinet for clearance. Once cleared, the bill will be tabled before the legislative assembly next week.
The primary opposition party, Congress, has been vocal in rejecting the proposed anti-conversion bill with Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar as well as Congress’ legislature party chief and leader of the opposition in legislative assembly Siddaramaiah deeming the bill a tool to harass minorities.
In an interview with ThePrint this week, Bommai said fears around the anti-conversion bill are “unjustified” and the government’s only aim is to prevent forceful or coerced conversions.
“It is not only the Karnataka government that is trying to bring such laws. Other states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat already have laws to ban forced conversions. We considered bringing this law after several cases of forced conversion came to our notice,” Bommai said.
Given the states whose laws Karnataka has studied to draft its own version of the anti-conversion bill, sources in the BJP suggest the prospective law would also look to address interfaith marriages, regulation on reservation benefits, official notice period for religious conversion, among others.
The proposal to table a bill to stop religious conversions in the state comes at a time Karnataka has been witnessing a spate of attacks on Christians with Hindutva outfits alleging illegal conversions. The Christian community in Karnataka has alleged that attacks on the community have increased ever since the government mooted the bill.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
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