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12/22/2021: Members of more than 40 organizations came to the streets of Bengaluru to protest against a bill passed by the Karnataka assembly to regulate religious convention in the southern Indian state. The December 21 rally demanded the withdrawal of “the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021” that the rally organizers described as anti-people and unconstitutional. The bill tramples upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy and dignity, they said. Speaking at the protest, constitutional law expert Arvind Narrain said that the Supreme Court has recognized that individuals have the freedom to dress the way they want, eat what they want and practice the faith they want. The bill by seeking to target conversions interferes with both the human right to dignity and the freedom to practice the faith of their choice. Gowramma of Janwadi Mahila Sanghatan stated that Karnataka was facing dark days and that the bill is not just an attack on religion but an attack on all women. The bill presumes that women and individuals from Dalit and SC communities do not have the agency to decide the religion they want to belong to. Demanding that the state withdraw the bill, she asked that

Read the main story in nytimes.com 12/22/2021: “They want to remove us from society,” a Christian farmer said of Hindu extremists. Rising attacks on Christians are part of a broader shift in India, in which minorities feel less safe. INDORE, India — The Christians were mid-hymn when the mob kicked in the door. A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs. “They kept beating us, pulling out hair,” said Manish David, one of the pastors who was assaulted. “They yelled: ‘What are you doing here? What songs are you singing? What are you trying to do?’” The attack unfolded on the morning of Jan. 26 at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra Christian center in the city of Indore. The police soon arrived, but the officers did not touch the aggressors. Instead, they arrested and jailed the pastors and other church elders, who were still dizzy from getting punched in the head. The Christians were charged with breaking a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, one that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that

Read the story at SCROLL.IN Investigation: How VHP and Madhya Pradesh police colluded to put a Christian pastor in jail The pastor won a court stay on notices about religious conversion. A day later, he was arrested – based on a complaint by a man who denies making the statement. Ramesh Vasunia, a pastor from Padalva village in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district, has been in jail since December 5, charged with attempting forced religious conversions. His wife and four others have also been arrested on the same charges. The arrests were ostensibly based on a complaint against the pastor by Moga Vasunia, a resident of the same village. The first information report registered by the police states Moga Vasunia and four others had visited the prayer hall where Pastor Ramesh was conducting a service on December 5. There, the pastor allegedly sprayed holy water on Moga Vasunia. The FIR also claims that the pastor had promised the visitors Rs 1,000 each, a motorcycle and medical facilities if they converted to Christianity. But Moga Vasunia, the 70-year-old pandit of a Shiva temple in Padalva, now denies making those allegations. “This is wrong. I have never been sprayed with [holy] water or lured with a bike, nor

STATEMENT: December 20, 2021. Washington DC. The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) welcomes the confirmation of Ambassador Rashad Hussain, an Indian-American to become the next Ambassador at Large at the Office of International Religious Freedom. He is the first Muslim-American to hold this office. We trust Ambassador Hussain will successfully bring the U.S. State Department toward a point of effective focus and action to diminish the oppressive danger presented by extremist Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) groups affiliated with the R SS, the fascist paramilitary outfit of which Prime Minister Modi is a lifelong member in India. Mr. Hussain's voice will be critical for protecting the vulnerable Christian and Muslim population in India from the radical Hindu nationalists. He would also be a forceful voice to protect the most vulnerable Christian and other smaller religious groups in many Islamic nations like Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt, and elsewhere. (updated 11:50 AM)

12/20/2021: The purpose of such laws is to give state protection for perpetrators of violence in society On paper, Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to profess, practise and propagate their relgion. This is subject to two kinds of restrictions — the laws regulating or restricting the secular aspects of religious practices, and the state regulating the religious practices themselves in the interests of public order, morality, health, and specific to Hindus, social welfare and reform. Constitutionally, one can choose one’s religion or choose none at any point of time in one’s life. The Constitution doesn’t say one is free to practise only one’s birth religion (or worse, only one state-mandated religion). So where do “anti-conversion laws” such as the one currently being contemplated by the Karnataka government fit in? Anti-conversion laws in India are not particularly new. Their history goes back to even pre-Independence days but post-Independence, Odisha had the first in 1967. The motivation behind this law was to check Christian missionaries in states with large tribal populations. Somewhat ironically titled the ‘Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967’, the law prohibited “forcible conversion” and also mandated that anyone choosing to convert out of the faith they had been

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