New Delhi: A forum of concerned citizens from various walks of life including the judiciary, civil and police services, armed forces and academia have supported the Uttar Pradesh law against “unlawful conversion of religion” and said it applies to everyone and provides for the regulation of conversion through prescribed declaration and giving notice to authorities for ruling out unlawful conversions based on various factors.
The statement came days after a group of over 100 retired civil servants had written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding immediate withdrawal of the “anti-conversion ordinance”.
The statement supporting the Uttar Pradesh law has been signed by 14 former judges, 108 former civil servants including ambassadors, 92 former armed forces officers and nine former vice-chancellors.
Former Rajya Sabha Secretary-General Yogendra Narain said in the statement that it is a matter of concern that “one group of retired civil servants, visibly biased with an anti-establishment attitude despite overtly posing as non-political, repeatedly avail of every opportunity to put the Indian democracy, its institutions, and persons legitimately holding high offices in poor light before the whole world by making ill-considered public statements, or writing misconceived communications to various authorities”.
“At the outset, we make it clear that this politically motivated pressure-group does not represent thousands of the former civil servants, police and other officers, former judges, officers of defence Forces, professionals and other nationalist intellectuals who believe in India emerging as the greatest democracy of the world, and a global icon bringing pride to every Indian,” the statement said.
The statement, which has 224 signatories, said the recent open communication addressed to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh “exhorting him to ‘re-learn’ the Constitution is an irresponsible statement which demeans our democratic institutions”.
“The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 applies to everyone belonging to any religion, provides for the regulation of conversion through prescribed declaration and giving notice to authorities for ruling out unlawful conversions based on misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement, fraudulent means, marriages etc. It rightly provides that the marriages done for sole purpose of unlawful conversion can be declared void by the family courts on a petition by any of the two parties in a marriage,” it said.
The signatories said that the law “safeguards the dignity of women involved in marriages leading to conversions, and further makes a special provision in favour of minors, women or anyone belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.
Major Gen (retired) SP Sinha told ANI there is need to protect the country’s cultural heritage.
“If something is done which is good for India’s heritage and cultural history then what is the harm? If we do not protect our cultural heritage, who else will protect. Foreign powers want to break our society. This is not acceptable,” he said.
“Just because a group of IAS come together…they think they can influence destiny and discourse of the country. This will not happen. We will stand. People should know what is good for the country,” he added.
Former Maharashtra Director General of Police Praveen Dixit said there is a tremendous uproar among communities against religious conversion.
“There is a major cause of concern among communities. Muslim girls are also being converted to Christianity. Buddhists are being converted to some other religion. There is a tremendous uproar among communities (against religions conversion),” he said.
The statement said the law itself has been dubbed “illegal and, in particular, anti-Muslim in a hasty generalisation based on a solitary incident of an alleged lapse in Moradabad while implementing the Uttar Pradesh Ordinance”.
“It is a shocking obsession of this biased group to stoke communal fire by instigating the religious minorities. Any seasoned civil servant having spent lifetime in governance knows that there can be, as per the judgment of some people, some incident of an alleged lapse in implementing the best of laws, but systems are always in place to punish those specific public servants found guilty of any mala fide misconduct, and to provide relief to the sufferer. The UP Government must understandably be taking such recourse in any such incident,” it said.
The signatories said that they strongly believe in a secular India with harmonious coexistence of people of all faiths, and consider unlawful conversions with a wrongful intent and questionable means a threat to communal harmony.
“We, the concerned citizens, totally reject and disassociate from the wholly misconceived point of view of some of our fellow retired civil servants. We urge all state governments to discharge their functions in the best public interest in maintaining law and order, social harmony and dignity of women without succumbing to any pressures,” it said.
The ordinance was promulgated in November last year. It mandates a jail term of the accused between one to five years, with Rs 15,000 penalty, if convicted for carrying out the forceful conversion for marriage.