The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big-Screen Infomercial Discourages Forced Conversions

Based on a Baptist Press news story
July 26, 2005

A public service infomercial questioning religious conversions has begun showing in Vadodara, India, a city of 1.4 million people in the state of Gujarat.

The president of the Indian Association of Producers, Artists and Technicians of Short Films and Television Programs, Devendra Khandelwal, said the public service-type short film was made to “educate” cinema audiences about Gujarat’s Freedom of Religion Act of 2003. The law prohibits conversion “by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means.”

Khandelwal, who also is the chief executive officer of the company that produced the infomercial, Indian Infotainment Media Corporation (IIMC) of Mumbai, says he wants to convey “that conversion from one religion to another, either by force or fraud, is illegal and one can be punished.”

Khandelwal said IIMC has agreements with some 600 theaters throughout India to screen such films.

“I don’t understand why people are making such a fuss when [the film] is just repeating what the law says,” Khandelwal also said.

As described by Compass, the act stipulates that would-be converts must obtain permission from district officials before they convert. Priests or religious officials also must contact district authorities before a conversion takes place. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to imprisonment for up to four years and a maximum fine of 100,000 rupees ($2,294).

The anti-conversion infomercial begins with a scene showing two dogs fighting and a voice-over saying, “You cannot change their nature.”

In the next scene, a cow grazes quietly in a green field while the voice says, “You cannot make this cow a non-vegetarian.”

The screen then goes black, and the voice says, “So why attempt to change someone’s religion?”

The infomercial concludes with the text of the 2003 Gujarat law.

Cinema staff in Vadodara said Khandelwal’s company gave them the infomercial for free. All Indian cinemas are required to show documentary films before they screen full-length movies, but the requirement is largely ignored. When a short film is shown, the producer earns 1 percent of the earnings from cinema attendance.

Four other Indian states have passed laws to combat “unethical” or “forced” conversions. Madhya Pradesh passed the first definitive anti-conversion law in 1966; Orissa in 1967; Arunachal Pradesh in 1978; and Tamil Nadu in October 2002. Several of these states have since repealed these laws.

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At 8/05/2005 03:20:00 PM, Anonymous Vidushi said...

Why have these states repealed the law? Could there be some coverage involving AP and MP?



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