Choosing My Religion: ‘Freedom of Religion Laws’ to Curb Liberty

Ram Puniyani
December 27, 2020

Indian Constitution gives us the right to practice, preach and propagate our religion. To not to follow any religion is also a matter of right for the individual. Now in our country as we are facing declining GDP, worsening economic situation, rising prices-unemployment-farmers suicides and currently farmer’s agitation, some of our state Governments are more worried about the interfaith marriages and conversions. Some of them are busy putting forth the laws to prevent conversions. As such conversions have been nagging issue since last few decades but currently they are being attributed as the goal behind inter faith marriages. BJP ruled states and particularly UP, are busy formulating the laws to punish those who are involved in the process of conversions. Parallel to the efforts of state Governments, the vigilante groups are having a gala time harassing couples to ‘save their religion’!

Conversion, mainly away from Hinduism, is yet again coming to fore. The UP Government is planning an ordinance against organizations which are involved in conversion process. As per this organizations will lose their registration and face dire consequences. The ordinance demands a two-month notice to be given to the local administration. The local administration will have the power to decide whether your intended act is legal or not. And of course the burden of proof will be on the converts and the persons converting them. There is a special; mention of SC/ST and women. Many states are now vying to bring in anti ‘Love jihad’ and anti-conversion laws. There are many individual cases where couples and their relatives are being tormented by groups in the name of conversion and love jihad. Many of the laws being framed by the states are mostly against many provisions of Indian constitution.

During freedom movement, Arya Samaj had started Shuddhi movement to bring back those who had embraced other religions. Similarly Tablighi Jamat was active with the parallel campaign of Tanzim to convert people into Islam. The biggest conversion of twentieth Century was of course the one undertaken by Bhimrao Ambedkar. This conversion as such tells us the real cause of the conversions into other religions. Ambedkar, a dalit, got the highest of degrees and on return he had to face the ignominy of being and untouchable. In his struggles for social justice and for dignified life his, his major conclusions were that Hindus cannot be a nation due to the caste hierarchy. Hinduism is dominated by Brahmanical values. This is what made him declare that ‘I was born a Hindu that was not in my hands but I will not die a Hindu’.

His exploration led him to Buddhism, which formed that basis of his decision to embrace Buddhism along with over three lakh followers. Law Professor Sameena Dalwai, in her article draws our attention to the fact that had the present type of laws would have been there, Ambedkar might be behind the bars by now. The architect of Indian Constitution was for Liberty. Liberty does include right to our choice to follow any faith of our liking, or to be an agnostic or atheist as well.

While many people have not been exercising their right to choose their religion, many have done so in the past. That’s how Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism spread in India. Buddhism did face a painful trajectory as it was attacked by elite intolerant traditions within Hinduism, which are totally against the concept of equality as propounded by Buddhism. Birth based inequality is peculiar feature of some sects prevailing here, with the sanction of Holy Scriptures. As a practice it is also part of other religions to some extent.

While today so many obstacles are being erected for the odd one opting to change one’s religion, history has seen streams of conversions, minor and major, to Islam and Christianity. Indian history has seen conversions mainly due to two factors. One is the tyranny of caste oppression. Swami Vivekananda tells us, “and The Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation of the downtrodden, to the poor. That is why one fifth of our people have become Mohammedans. It was not the sword that did it all. It would be the height of madness to think that it was all the work of sword and fire. It was to gain their liberty from the… zaminders and from the Priest, and as a consequence you find in Bengal there are more Mohammedans than Hindus amongst cultivators, because there were so many zaminders there.” (Selected Works of Swami Vivekanand, Vol.3, 12th edition, 1979.p.294.Extracted from the sayings of Swami Vivekananda compiled in `Proletariat! Win Equal Rights’ Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, 1984 p.16.).  

Many a conversions did take place also due to the social interaction and spiritual quest also. Some victor Kings also put humiliating condition of acceptance of their religion by the defeated kings. In India it was mainly the interaction with Sufi saints that many took to Islam. One interesting example is that of Dileep Kumar becoming A. R. Rahman, under the influence of a Sufi saint.

The second phenomenon is that of Christian missionaries. They have been working on issues of health and education in remote areas also. A couple of decades ago Pastor Stains was done to death on pretext of conversion (1999) and in 2008 anti Christian violence has been orchestrated in places like Kandhamal in particular. The extent of this conversion is not very huge if we see that despite centuries of work, the Christian population in India as per the census of 2011 is 2.3%. (First Church was set up by St. Thomas in AD 52).

Political phenomena of ‘reconversion to Hinduism’ are not far behind as witnessed in Agra, where the pavement dwellers were promised the BPL card and ration card. They were lured to come to a puja and declared that now they are Hindus. Ghar Wapsi by giving bath in hot springs in Adivasi areas is very much there. This is a political move to bring these sections into the fold of caste hierarchy, yet again.

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News Network
August 16,2022

Udupi, Aug 16: Security has been heightened in Udupi in the wake of communal tension prevailing in neighbouring Shivamogga district over objections by Popular Front of India against portraits of VD Savarkar put up in that city.

The police have deployed a tight security cover near the Brahmagiri circle in Udupi city where a banner of Savarkar has been displayed as part of the 75th anniversary of independence.

The banner depicted Hindu Rashtra' with Savarkar and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose being described as revolutionaries, who earned freedom for India.

PFI had given a memorandum to police to remove the banner from the circle. Udupi city municipal council had given permission to display the banner for three days as part of the Independence Day celebrations.

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August 8,2022

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called a meeting of all Janata Dal (United) MLAs and MPs on Tuesday, leading to speculation his growing friction with the BJP may come to a head.

Chief among the many reasons why Mr Kumar is upset with the BJP, which is an alliance partner of the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U) in Bihar, has been the BJP-led central government's offer of token representation to allies as Union Ministers.

Mr Kumar's party had denied another Rajya Sabha berth last month to his former JD(U) colleague RCP Singh, who had taken a spot in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last year without consulting Mr Kumar. Mr Singh bade farewell to the JD(U) over the Rajya Sabha snub.

"There's a conspiracy against me because I'd become union minister," said Mr Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who was once the national president of JD(U). "I'll just say that there's no cure to jealousy," he said while leaving the JD(U) yesterday. "Nitish Kumar will not become Prime Minister in any of his seven lives," he said, describing the JD(U) as a sinking ship.

Mr Kumar reacted by sending out his party's top leaders to respond to allegations by Mr Singh of pettiness and for allegedly dragging his family into a political fight citing illegal property deals.

The JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh in a hurry to blunt the attacks by Mr Singh, however, appeared to have overcorrected when he ended up threatening the alliance party BJP.

"What is the need to join the Union Cabinet? The Chief Minister had decided in 2019 we won't be part of the Union Cabinet," Rajiv Ranjan told reporters. He said the JD(U) won't join the Union Cabinet in the near future too, leading to speculation of a rift that can't be mended.

The sudden increase in outburst of Mr Kumar's aides like Rajiv Ranjan is seen as a calculated move to put pressure on the BJP to concede to the Chief Minister's demands, which includes removal of Bihar assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, for whom Nitish Kumar's dislike is an open secret.

The Chief Minister, citing health reasons, had stayed away from a meeting of the government think-tank NITI Aayog in Delhi this weekend, which 23 Chief Ministers including West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee had attended. The absence was seen as yet another show of anger by Mr Kumar at the BJP.

Mr Singh had denied the charge of negotiating directly with the Modi government for a ministerial position in the centre. He said Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken to Mr Kumar about cabinet expansion and offered one berth to the party on the condition that Mr Singh himself become a Union Minister.

Mr Singh also denied the JD(U)'s allegations that there are irregularities in his property deals. "These properties belong to my wife and other dependents, who have been paying due tax since 2010," he said. "I don't know what the party wants to investigate. I have nothing to hide," he said.

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News Network
August 18,2022

dolo.jpg

New Delhi, Aug 18: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to file its response within 10 days on a PIL seeking directions to make pharmaceutical companies liable for giving freebies to doctors as an incentive to prescribe their drugs.

A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna was informed that makers of Dolo-650 mg tablet had invested Rs 1,000 crore in freebies to have its anti-fever drug prescribed to patients.

The Central Board for Direct Taxes has accused makers of the Dolo-650 tablet of distributing freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore to doctors as consideration for prescribing the tablet, said senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India.

Justice DY Chandrachud remarked that it is a "serious issue" and said that even he has been prescribed the same tablet during COVID.

"This is not music to my ears. I was also asked to have the same when I had COVID. This is a serious issue and matter," Justice Chandrachud said.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, said that affidavit is almost ready and it will be filed.

The apex court then asked the Central government to file a reply within 10 days on the plea alleging unethical marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies in their dealings with healthcare professionals resulting in the prescription of excessive or irrational drugs and a push for high-cost or over-priced brands.

Earlier, the bench had issued notice to the Centre on the petition but it has not filed a response yet.

The plea claimed that there are abundant examples that show how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes and puts patients' health at risk.

There are abundant examples that show how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes and puts patients' health at risk, the petition has said.

The petition added that as violations of this kind have become a recurring phenomenon and are progressively becoming more pervasive, a Statutory Code of ethical marketing for the pharmaceutical industry, with penal consequences, be established to curb such practices for the enforcement of the Fundamental Right to Health of the people of India.

The petition also said that due to the voluntary nature of the existing Code, unethical practices continue to increase and have also surfaced during the COVID-19 times.

Hence, the petition urged to issue direction to give the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices a statutory basis and make it effective by providing a monitoring mechanism, transparency, accountability as well as consequences of violations.

The petition has urged to direct that till an effective law is enacted as prayed above, this court may lay down the guidelines to control and regulate unethical marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies or in the alternative make the existing Code binding with such modifications/additions as the court may find proper and reasonable, which should be followed by all the authorities/courts under Articles 32, 141, 142 and 144 of the Constitution.

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