Anti-Conversion Law Would Have Tied Mother Teresa's Hands

Opposition to Tamil Nadu Ordinance Is Growing

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MADURAI, India, NOV. 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a repressive anti-conversion ordinance has human-rights lawyers up in arms.



Members of the All-India Lawyers' Union, Indian Lawyers Association, Lawyers for Human Rights, and Students for Secularism met Oct. 29 at a seminar in Madurai, to express their opposition to the law.

Indian Lawyers' Association secretary K. Swamithurai pointed out that the term used in the law, "allurement," is so broad as to cover even such acts of charity as those once practiced by Mother Teresa, according to SAR News.

Lawyers for Human Rights secretary T. Lajapathy Roy cited Article 25 of the Indian Constitution: "The freedom of worship enshrined in Article 25 protects minorities. When some members sought to introduce subclauses to the article banning conversion of minors or by fraud, the late C. Rajagopalachari pointed out that forcible conversion was punishable under the Indian Penal Code, and that there was no need to add such clauses."

According to Students for Secularism secretary R. Gandhi, the law's provision against "forcible conversion" is vague and can restrict even voluntary conversions. Freedom of religion, as a fundamental right, should not be curtailed, Gandhi said.

Indian Lawyers' Association president P. Dharmaraj called on members of the majority community and especially all secular forces to accept responsibility to maintain the basic secular concept of the Constitution, and to oppose all laws which would threaten freedom of religion.

The so-called black law, introduced by the state government in an apparent attempt to placate Hindu fundamentalists, puts a special burden on the Dalits, for whom freedom of religion has been the only possible route to social parity -- a way that is barred now, as K. Sultan Alaudheen, executive president of the All-India Lawyers Union, noted.