The bill, which effectively prohibits conversion away from Hinduism, was scheduled for discussion by the state’s Legislative Council, but the governing party said it wanted to skip the step because both the Assembly and Council have been suspended.
Christians in Karnataka are alarmed by the decision as attacks have been on the rise. “Levels of hostility have increased sharply since the state government started pushing the anti-conversion law. [They’ve used] disinformation and speech to incite violence and discrimination, fanning the flames,” a local partner in the field said.
The attacks are fueled by the spread of disinformation about “mass conversions” taking place, for which there is no data to back up the claims. In Karnataka, just under 2% of the population is Christian and has remained as such.
The bill has six months to be considered by the Council where, critics point out, the ruling party is just one seat short of a majority.
“Hindu nationalists have been on a rampage, threatening the Christian community,” said Abel*, a local pastor. “Pastors have been assaulted and falsely accused of enticing people to become Christians. Church meetings are labelled ‘conversion gatherings’ and attacked. Meanwhile, mass reconversion events (a ‘Ghar Wapsi’) are held to draw people back to the Hindu faith. Christians live under a cloud of fear as there have been arrests on false charges, some have been ostracized by their communities and churches have been vandalized and forced to close.”