Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that religious conversions done by allurement or threat are wrong and there are sufficient provisions under existing law in the country to stop such practices.
At the same time, he said choosing one’s religion was a personal matter and no government has the right to interfere.
The Delhi chief minister was speaking in poll-bound Punjab, where the Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, Giani Harpreet Singh, had accused Christian missionaries of running programmes for forced conversion of Sikh families in border villages, a charge vehemently denied by the Bishop of Diocese of Amritsar.
Kejriwal said, ”I believe it is a matter of personal choice which religion one wants to practice… and it is entirely one’s personal matter in which no one has a right to interfere… No government has the right to interfere in this, and this is one’s constitutional right.” ”But if anyone’s conversion is done by allurement or threat, that is wrong,” the AAP chief told reporters when queried about his party’s stand on bringing an anti-conversion law.
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The BJP has been targeting the AAP over the issue. The BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh had earlier passed a bill aimed at curbing religious conversions by fraudulent or any other undue means, including through marriage.
Kejriwal said that forcing anyone to convert was wrong and whatever steps need to be taken to stop this should be taken. ”It is my opinion and I have been told by some lawyers, but this needs to be examined further, that under the country’s existing law there are sufficient sections and provisions that if anyone forces anyone to convert one can be stopped from doing so.
”Even today there are sufficient provisions in the country (to stop forcible conversions). Those who talk of a new law, what they are doing, is a political issue,” he said in a veiled dig at the BJP.
Meanwhile, on a question pertaining to the 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, Kejriwal accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of playing ”dirty politics” on the issue.
The SAD has accused the AAP government of obstructing the release of Bhullar. Kejriwal said that has he told Delhi Home Secretary to immediately convene a meeting of the Sentence Review Board and ensure that Bhullar’s issue is taken up in the agenda.
”As several issues are taken up in the Board’s meeting, I will ensure that this issue is there in the agenda and discussed. Whatever decision is taken at the meeting, the file goes to the Delhi L-G and he takes the final decision,” said Kejriwal.
The SAD had recently said a party delegation would meet President Ram Nath Kovind to seek ”immediate and effective personal intervention” to secure the release of Bhullar.
Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had urged Kejriwal not to allow a ”communal bias or political or electoral opportunism to dictate his decision and refusal to grant immediate clearance for Bhullar’s release”.
The Centre had in September 2019 recommended special remission to eight Sikh prisoners, including Bhullar, to mark the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. It has been alleged by some Sikh bodies that the AAP government in Delhi has not given its clearance for the release of Bhullar.