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.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Coercive Conversions Issue Resurfaces in Orissa's High Court

Statesman News Service
CUTTACK, Jan. 13. 2005

The issue of conversions using coercive measures has resurfaced in Orissa with the filing of a fresh petition in the High Court alleging indifference of the district magistrate and superintendent of police in Ganjam district while seeking a direction from the judiciary to take appropriate action against the culprits by invoking the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act.
The case relates to the alleged plight of 22 families of cobblers – at Mallabhandaja village under Digapahandi police station in Ganjam district —who had refused to embrace another religion. In April last year, Dalua Tabatia and others of Mallabhandaja village had sought judicial intervention in the alleged fine of Rs 21,501 slashed on those who were refusing to change their religion. The group of 22 families are being ostracised by the rival community, the petition alleged.

The petitioners had further alleged that letters sent to the collector and the SP seeking protection against forcible conversion had evoked no response. Subsequently, the High Court had asked the state government to direct all the district magistrates “to take appropriate actions” — in case they got complaints of conversions by coercion — by invoking the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act.

The petitioners, however, have moved the High Court afresh with another plea seeking contempt proceedings against the district authorities as they had failed to comply with the earlier direction from the same court over the past six months.

In another case, the people of the 19 villages under Mohana police station in Gajapati district had in June last year sought the intervention of the High Court against the alleged conversion in the area by using both force and allurement. The petitioners had named two persons as key players in the conversion drive which were taking place in the garb of missionary activities.

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