Wrong solution to a genuine problem

Via Jonathan Turley I learned something that I had not known before, and that is that in India the law requires you to get government approval to change your religion. That bizarre law had its genesis in preventing forcible conversions by giving a third party the opportunity to judge if the person genuinely agreed to the conversion.

But like many such laws, it has unintended consequences and one is that it enables people who object to conversions to block them by asserting that they were done under duress.

Tularam Jatav, his son Keshav and relatives Manikram and Makhubhai Jatav were arrested in Madhya Pradesh despite telling a court that they had not been forced into adopting another religion. Seven others have been held for questioning.

The Jatav family went to a district magistrate with affidavits affirming that they were converting willingly. Notably, local Hindu activists arrived and began protesting the conversion. After hours of such protests, charges were filed against the family. The appearance and timing of the protest/charges magnifies the concerns over the law and its use against religious minorities. Villagers were the ones to alleged forced conversions to Islam despite the family’s insistence that it was voluntary.

The whole idea of a forced religious conversion is not only wrong but silly. The idea that the solution to it is to require government approval merely compounds the problem. The only real solution is strict separation of church and state and strong protection of people for their individual rights.


  1. says

    The whole idea of a forced religious conversion is not only wrong but silly.

    Except isn’t how a lot of them spread out initially? I thought Christianity and Islam in particular had histories drenched with this.

  2. says

    I thought Christianity and Islam in particular had histories drenched with this.

    It’s actually worse. The king becomes christian or whatever, and immediately expected is that everyone in that domain is now following the king’s religion. Justinian, Clovis, Harald Bluetooth, Kamehameha, Humebon, etc, etc — it’s an absurdity that has always showed what a sham the “divine right of kings” is.

  3. says

    “Government approval” sounds a lot like the registration of religions, re: mandatory tithing in Germany, Indonesia’s six “official” religions (which criminalizes all others), catholic Spain a few centuries ago. People should never have to “opt out” of something they don’t want to be part of anymore or never did in the first place. What is this, the mafia and other street gangs where you’re in for life, “blood in, blood out”?

    Forced conversion isn’t the only problem with “official” religions. Once religions get their claws in you, they will try to force their will upon unwilling people (e.g. end of life care in hospitals). The last thing I’d want is some catholic priest leering at me and making my health decisions as I lay in a hospital, unable to protect myself. My parents may have belonged to the cult, but I never did.

  4. jesse says

    Well, doesn’t India in many ways have a separation of Church and State? One could argue that this law is a bad solution, but given the history of India I am not sure what (as a policymaker) I would do either.

    I’m really asking here. You have a country where religious violence has been a problem, and many of the laws I see cited here as bad ideas (I don’t really disagree in principle that they are) strike me as rather desperate attempts to keep a lid on things so that you have at least one less riot in the streets this month, you know?

    I am curious what policy options — religiously based or not — you would back to try and pare back these kinds of problems. I am not trying to be deliberately obtuse or trolling, I am really asking how you’d approach this, given all the bad blood that dates from very recently — the partition wasn’t all that long ago, and the actions of the BJP haven’t helped. (My great aunt and uncle were there for it, they aren’t Indian, but the description of the trip between Lahore and Calcutta was harrowing -- my uncle described stepping over and moving bodies to get the trains moving again).

    Like I said I don’t disagree that the solution can create all kinds of problems itself. But I just want to know how you’d try and address it, given that you are from the region involved and know the place a lot better than I.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *