Ahmedabad: Christians, Buddhists and Jains in Guajrat are angered with the Freedom of Religion (amendment) Bill 2006. Christians believe the amendment will be used to harass them and Jains and Buddhists because they are being bracketed with Hindus.
The Gujarat Assembly passed the Bill in 2003, when conversion of Christians in Dangs district had created a controversy, but the legislation was not implemented till now.
The BJP, during the 2002 assembly elections, had promised that it would introduce of a Bill to check religious conversions.
Christian groups like Prashant, which works on human rights, oppose the Bill on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and against the universal declaration of human rights.
“I think the intention was obvious, in fact, it was blatant. The primary aim of the act was to target Christians. It violates Article 25 of the Indian constitution as well as the universal declaration of human rights," says Father Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant
Christians are also angry with their classification as Protestants and Catholics. They say this is a move to create suspicion and mistrust between the two denominations. The government though says, for the sake of proper implementation of the Bill, it is necessary to define the sects accurately.
"Yes, this is a divide and rule ploy. It is aimed at creating mistrust between Catholics and Protestants, although both have basically the same set of beliefs," says Prakash.
The Gujarat government is yet to frame the rules and regulations that will guide the implementation of the Act.