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Conversion to escape caste discrimination weakens India, says judge

Allahabad High Court says 'destructive forces' make use of caste discrimination for conversion

Nirendra Dev, New Delhi

Nirendra Dev, New Delhi

Published: August 02, 2021 10:07 AM GMT

Updated: August 02, 2021 10:20 AM GMT

Conversion to escape caste discrimination weakens India, says judge

Allahabad High Court, the top court in India's Uttar Pradesh state. (Photo: Wikipedia)

An Indian court has criticized caste-based discrimination and said if a person from the majority Hindu community converts to another religion after "getting insulted, then the country becomes weak."

Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh state also called for social reforms on July 31 while rejecting the bail plea of Jabid Ansari, a Muslim accused of unlawfully converting a Hindu girl to Islam and forcing her to marry him.

“If a person from the majority converts from his/her religion after getting insulted, then the country becomes weak, and the destructive powers benefit from it," said Judge Shekhar Kumar Yadav. "It is time to bring in social reforms.” 

The court observed that often people change religion not “out of fear or greed but due to humiliation as they believe that they will get respect in other religions.”

The judge cited the case of B.R. Ambedkar, hailed as the architect of the Indian constitution, who was born to a family of Dalit people, once considered untouchable. He later converted to Buddhism.

“Ambedkar suffered a lot of humiliation in his early life and that is why he converted,” the court observed.

Some 80 percent of India’s 28 million Christians are socially poor Dalit and tribal people, according to Christian leaders

The Sanskrit word "Dalit" means "trampled upon" and refers to people and communities outside India’s four-tier caste system.

Government data shows that of India’s 1.2 billion people, 201 million belong to this marginalized community.

Thousands of Dalits are known to have converted to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam to escape humiliation and caste practices.

Some 80 percent of India’s 28 million Christians are socially poor Dalit and tribal people, according to Christian leaders.
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Hindu groups continue to accuse Christian missionaries of using money and their educational and health services to attract Dalit and tribal people to Christianity.

In early July, the federal government's Enforcement Directorate, which looks into economic offenses, carried out massive searches at six premises linked to one Mohammad Umar Gautam.

The officials claimed to have seized "incriminating documents" that allegedly showed Gautam’s involvement in carrying out forced religious conversions to Islam in northern India with overseas funding.

India believes in multiple religions and there is no place for religious fanaticism, greed or fear in the country

Allahabad High Court said some people get foreign funding to force people to convert to other religions and "weaken" the country.

It rejected Ansari's bail plea and stressed India’s religious plurality.

"India believes in multiple religions and there is no place for religious fanaticism, greed or fear in the country. The constitution of India does not allow conversions based on any of these factors,” the judge said.

The court observed that in Ansari's case the conversion took place for the sake of marriage against the will of the victim.

The woman had complained that she was abducted, drugged and forced to sign papers to show her willingness to marry.

If bail was granted, it would give "more power to the religious fanatics who convert poor and women" by threatening or luring them, the judge said.

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