Karnataka opts to bring in law curbing fraudulent and forced conversions

Massive questionable religious conversions compelled Karnataka Government to bring in a law restraining fraudulent and forced conversions to safeguard innocent people in the State.

Finally, both houses of Karnataka passed the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2022 amidst opposition from non-Hindu communities and non-BJP and its aligning parties. Karnataka becomes the tenth State in the country to enact such a law. After recognising significant cases, it has been observed that the conversions of innocent and poor people were done by fraud, force and enticement. All sections of society have been found the victim of such religious conversions. Not only women but men and whole families have also been found victims of fraudulent conversions. As a result, the State Government is being forced to constitute the law.
Basavaraj Bommai 
Questionable conversions to Islam
After looking at the religious conversion cases of the past several years, large numbers of women have been found victims of fraudulent and forced conversion. In 2005, the then State Government asked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate the conversion cases after several women missing complaints. The investigation found that 149 Hindu girls who had gone missing during that period had married Muslim men, and ten had married Christian men. The CID found that as many as 21,890 women had gone missing between 2005-2009, with as many as 2,624 untraced. Such a huge number of missing girls led to criticism of the State Government by human rights activists and religious organisations in the State. 
So far, many non-Muslim organisations have staged several protests claiming the missing girls have been trapped in 'Love Jihad' - the term used to denote the conversion of Hindu women to Islam by means of seduction, feigning love, deception, kidnapping, and forced marriage, as part of a broader demographic war. Non-Muslim organisations claimed thousands of women converted to Islam by trapping them in love. The claim has been found true in a number of cases. The issue gained momentum after a previously non-Muslim girl was found linked with the Islamic State organisation after her conversion to Islam and nikah with Anas Abdul Rahiman, son of Basha, former MLA of Ullal.
The girl was identified as Deepthi Marla, who belonged to the Kodagu district. She fell in love with Anas while studying BDS at a college in Deralakatte and later converted to Islam and changed her name to Mariam. On January 3, 2022, the National Investigation Agency arrested Mariam. According to the IANS report, NIA officials carried out investigations about Mariam on the suspicion that she was involved in a racket to recruit youths to the ISIS network. Her case is still under investigation. However, it was a shocking incident for the Karnataka people that the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam has not been only for marriage purposes but also for terrorism. Such cases have also been reported in other States in India, mostly in Kerala, a border State of Karnataka. Following is the list of some of the cases in which women and men became victim after marrying or having friendship with Muslim partner.
 Sr no Victim’s Name Description
 1Apoorva Puranik
Apoorva was studying MBA in Hubli, fell in love with Mohammad Ijaz who was an auto driver in the area where she lived. She changed her name to Arfa Bano after the wedding in 2018. The couple has a two-year-old child. Later Apoorva learnt about Ijaz’s first marriage. Heartbroken Apoorva applied for a divorce but the estranged husband attacked Apoorva, assaulted her 23 times with a lethal weapon. She is now battling for her life at KIMS hospital in Hubli. 
 2Shilpa Devadiga
Shilpa Devadiga died after consuming rat poison after a Muslim man Azeez sexually abused her by promising to marry her but later, he blackmailed her into converting to Islam by capturing obscene videos of her and threaten her when she refused to convert. Azeez was already married to Salma and reportedly hid their marriage from Shilpa.
 3Shanthi Joobi
Shanthi Joobi changed her name to Asiya Joobi Ibrahim Khaleel Kattekar after the conversion Islam in 2017 after marrying Ibrahim. According to her allegation, she was kept away from her husband by her in-laws forcibly and demanded money. 
 4Unnamed Hindu woman
Soyub Kotwal was arrested by Dakshina Kannada district police for not only harassing the girl on social media platform Instagram but also repeatedly forcing her to accept gifts and convert to Islam.
 5Ravi Nimbaragi
Ravi Nimbaragi was killed for loving a Muslim woman. His body was dumped in farm well. After investigation, Police arrested girl’s brother, uncle on the complaint filed by Muslims woman. Ravi also refused conversion to Islam. 
Many cases have been reported in which Hindu men have also been killed for refusing conversion to Islam to marry Muslim women to whom they love. According to Islamic law, if a non-Muslim man wants to marry a Muslim woman, he must convert to Islam before marriage. In many cases, the parents and relatives have been arrested for killing Hindu men. In some cases, it has been observed that Muslim women have registered cases against their relatives for killing or beating their Hindu lover.
Questionable conversions to Christianity
It has also been found that non-Christians have been converted to Christianity by fraud, force and enticement. Many cases have been registered so far in the State. It has been observed that Christian priests and pastors converted poor people by superstition. This has also led to religious conflicts in some villages of the State. The non-Christian residents claimed that the Christian missionaries had professed Christianity within the poor community and changed their culture. Villagers claimed that some churches have been constructed on Government lands. Tribals and scheduled caste communities have also been targeted. This has led to clashes in several parts of the State. The residents also claimed that the Christian organisations have received massive funds from Western countries for their activities. From the year 2006 to 2017, Christian organisations received 5981 CR as a foreign fund for their missionary activities in Karnataka only. For the last few years, non-Christian organisations alleged that lots of churches and prayer halls have been built, and significant money has been spent on the salary of missionaries. They also alleged that huge amounts of money have been spent on converting poor people through enticement.
Karnataka also witnessed communal violence in 2008 because of forced conversions, land grabbing and distribution of inflammatory literature targeting Hindu gods by the New Life Church - a Protestant sect operating in the State. Satya Darshini, a Kannada book containing inflammatory material denigrating Hindu gods, was also distributed, which irked many Hindus.
According to the report, 'An overview of Christians in Karnataka with a special focus on the plight of Dalit Christians', published by the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, the big concentration of Christians is found in seven districts, namely, Bangalore Urban, South Kanara, Udupi, North Kanara, Bidar, Mysore and Kolar. Dharwad, Chikmagalur, Shimoga and Chamrajnagar also have a substantial number of Christians. In other districts, they are found in very small numbers. The growth rate of the Christian population in the relatively backward districts has been significantly higher than that of the overall growth rate of the Christian population in the State. As against a growth rate of the Christian population of 2.6 per cent per annum in the State between 1961 and 1971, the growth rate of the Christian population in the relatively backward districts like Bidar is 10.6 per cent, Gulbarga 5.6 per cent and Bijapur 5 per cent.
The above information raised the question of why the rate of the Christian population is significantly higher than that of the overall growth rate of the Christian population in the State. It reveals that significant religious conversions took place in the targeted backwards areas of the State. The majority of the people living in these areas are uneducated. The previous State Governments have also been responsible for the fraudulent conversions of poor people in these areas as Governments fail to provide education and health facilities. However, in 2017, it was reported that the then State Government led by CM Siddaramaiah, belonging to the Indian National Congress, funded many churches and Christian institutes under the Minority Welfare Department.
In his report 'Karnataka Government funding Churches', M Pramod Kumar wrote,
The reply received from the Joint Director of the Directorate of Minorities Welfare, dated 19 May 2016, provides year-wise figures of funds granted to these institutions.
The RTI response reveals that in the year 2015-16, a total of Rs. 1484.60 lakhs (Rs 14.85 crores) were granted for the repair and renovation of churches alone.
In the year 2014-15, Rs 1498.32 lakhs was provided in grants for the construction of new "Community Halls" (Samudaya Bhavana) and Rs 1656.33 lakhs for the repair and renovation of churches.
In the year 2013-2014, Rs 672.10 lakhs was granted for the construction of new "Community Halls", and Rs 1230.85 lakhs for the repair and renovation of churches.
However, the above money had been granted for only the repair and renovation of churches for one year, excluding other grants allocated for Christians in that year. So far, crores of rupees have been granted every year for the same to various churches.
M Pramod Kumar gave the following details of the funds granted to churches for repair and renovation for the year 2015-16 in his report.

Church Funding

Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding
Church Funding 
Better late than never
In the background of these facts, making law was the requirement to restrain immoral religious practices and cheating with innocent and uneducated people of Karnataka. But unfortunately, higher rank clerics and religious leaders of Muslim and Christian religions only opposed the law. But on the other hand, other faith clerics welcomed the law. As a result, the leaders and clerics of Muslim and Christian religions are facing criticism over their opposition to the law because the law only bars conversion by fraud, force and enticement. If anyone wants to convert after his or her free will, he or she can convert as per law. So, the law is not anti-conversion but for protection against fraudulent and forced conversion.