In the past five years, 1,895 applications seeking religious conversion have been filed in Gujarat, of which 53% were from Surat. While more than 94% of the applicants were Hindus, about four percent were Muslims and a little over one percent were Christians.
A total of 1,003 applications were received from the diamond and textile hub of Surat during the period between July, 2014 and June, 2019. This was revealed in data tabled by the state government in the Gujarat Assembly during its fifth session which concluded last month.
Apart from Surat, the districts of Banaskantha (196 applicants), Junagadh (161), Anand (92) and Surendranagar (80) reported a significant number of applicants who wished to change their religion. Most of these were Hindus, stated the government’s reply to an unstarred question asked by Naushad Solanki, a Congress MLA from Dasada — a reserved Assembly seat for Scheduled Castes.
Compared to a total of 1,789 Hindu applicants between July 1, 2014 and June 20, 2019, 82 applicants were Muslims and 22 were Christians. There was only one Sikh applicant and one Ismali Khoja applicant during the five-year period. Most of the Muslims who applied for conversions in Gujarat were from Surat (20), Vadodara (12), Rajkot (10) and Ahmedabad (8), while Christians applicants were largely from Vadodara (5), Anand (4) and Kheda (5).
During this five-year period, the number of Hindu applicants wanting to change their religion went up by 34% in comparison to the 2014-’15 period, with the highest number of applicants (735) being registered during the year between July, 2018 and June, 2019. The highest number of Muslim applicants (24) was between July, 2017 and June, 2018, while the highest number of Christians (7) applied between July, 2016 and June, 2017.
When asked about the spike in religious conversions in Surat district, Dr Dhavalkumar Patel, the District Collector of Surat told The Indian Express, “Majority of the applicants who applied from Surat are Hindus seeking conversion to Buddhism. Most of them are people from the Scheduled Castes.”
He said there was a spike in applicants last year because the District Collector of Junagadh had not given permission to most applicants who had participated in a mass religious conversion programme to Buddhism in 2014.
“They were asked to apply in the districts where they reside,” he said, adding that the applicants were denied permission by both districts for a significant period of time. He said that the number of people converting from Hinduism to Islam or vice-versa in Surat district was almost equal.
“Such conversions were largely because of marital relations. People who do not want to get their marriages registered under the Special Marriage Act, seek conversions into a religion of their choice,” Patel said.
During this five-year period, the state government gave permission to 1,006 applicants, 67% of which was between July, 2018 and June, 2019. When asked about the due process which is followed once applications for religious conversions are received, Dr Patel said, “The applications are sent to the executive magistrate and the concerned police official. They take the statements of the person getting converted and check if there is any kind of force or allurement.”
When asked if a large number of Hindus converting to Buddhists in Gujarat was a matter of concern, Subramanian Swamy, the BJP MP from Rajya Sabha who was visiting a private university on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on Friday, said, “There are no inducements or force involved in Hindus getting converted to Buddhism. According to Article 25 of the Constitution, a Hindu is one who is not a Muslim or a Christian.”Avinash Nair
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