It was only earlier this month that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had alleged that forced conversions were taking place in the state, which was set to be regulated completely. As per political watchdogs, Karnataka state's BJP-led government has been making a ruckus over alleged 'forced conversions' at Churches and setting the template for 'anti-conversion' law in its election manifesto.

Reports of incidents where right-wing groups have disrupted prayer meets of small Christian groups have increased markedly in the past two months. The basis cited for the incidents are allegations of conversions being carried out at such meetings.

As per a report in The Quint, Karnataka's Intelligence Department issued an order, dated October 16, asking police and intelligence officials to gather 'information' about authorised and unauthorised churches in Karnataka, the heads of the churches, their details like names, mobile numbers and the places where they attend religious gatherings, whether at churches or at prayer halls in homes.

Basavaraj Bommai
Basavaraj Bommai.(photo:Basavaraj Bommai Twitter)IANS

The timeline of issue

On 21 September, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jananendra informed the state Legislative Assembly of the plans to introduce a law to curb religious conversions. On 24 September BJP MLA Gulihatti Shekhar said his mother was forcefully converted to Christianity. The claim, still unverified, made in the Legislative Assembly was enough to snowball into an issue of religion and alleged forced conversions.

In less than a month later, Shekhar, also a member of the Legislative Committee on Welfare of Minorities and Backward Classes, announced to the media that the committee will watch out for legal and illegal churches in the state and 'survey' them. On October 18, Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers forced their way into a makeshift Church in Karnataka's Huballi and sang Hindu prayers to "protest" against the "alleged conversions" taking place there. After the incident's video went viral, where right-wing Hindu activists can be seen chanting Hindu prayers with folded hands above their heads, local BJP MLA Arvind Bellad blocks highway and demands that the pastor Somu Avaradhi be arrested.

church closed in bengaluru
church closed in BengaluruIANS

As per a report in The Quint, Karnataka's Intelligence Department, issued an order, dated October 16, asking police and intelligence officials to gather 'information' about authorised and unauthorised churches in Karnataka. The report further states that top police officers have been assigned the task of gathering information on minority religious places and congregations. The order file, labelled as most confidential, puts all churches, their religious heads and activities under the scanner. The details of the head of the churches, their names, mobile numbers have also to be furnished by the intelligence.

In short, the intelligence wing has ordered the top officials to gather all information on all churches in the state (whether established centuries ago or new ones) and all the heads who practice or preach Christianity (whether at Churches or at-home prayer gatherings). Christians form less than 2 percent of Karnataka's population. Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the right to profess, practice or preach one's religion.

It is a cause for concern

While almost everyone reached a consensus on how forced conversions should be banned and strictly monitored, many expressed their concerns over the misuse of conversion allegations to target a minority community. Others rued the fact that how religion had been reduced to a petty tool used for divisive politics.