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Forced conversion to Christianity is on, need law in Punjab: Akal Takht Jathedar

Claims 'missionaries funded by foreign forces' converting poor Sikhs, Hindus; says upto the community to demand anti-conversion law

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh (Express file photo by Vandita Mishra)

Alleging “forced conversions” into Christianity and warning that the practice “will not be tolerated anymore”, the Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh, has called a gathering of the Sikh community to discuss the issue, at Anandpur Sahib on September  5. He said the Sikh community needs to “seriously think about demanding an anti-conversion law” in Punjab.

Speaking to The Indian Express on Wednesday, he said: “We have never demanded an anti-conversion law in Punjab. We didn’t want it. But such a situation has been created now that we are pushed to make the demand. Sikhs need to seriously think about demanding this law, which we never wanted in the first place,” he said.

“For some time now, some so-called Christian missionaries have been forcibly converting Sikhs by adopting miracle cures and fraudulent practices. Such practices are being adopted although these go against Christianity… Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab are being misled to convert them to Christianity, and this is happening under the government’s nose. Although there are provisions in India’s law to book people for superstitious practices in the name of religion, no government is ready to take action against them due to vote-bank politics,” he said.

“For the last six months, police complaints have been filed by Sikhs… that these people (missionaries) are practising forcible religious conversions by misleading the public, but the administration did not take any action. Sikhs are not against any religion or its values, but against fraud being committed in the name of religion,” said the Jathedar.

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“We are against miracle cures (pakhandwaad) in our own religion also. The Bible too denounces such people… But here, such superstitions are being used to lure the Sikhs,” he said.

He claimed that poor Sikhs and Hindus from backward classes were being targeted by missionaries funded by “foreign forces”. “Punjab is a border state. If such practices of forced religious conversions are taking place in a border state with the support of foreign forces, it is alarming. The practice of forced religious conversions will not be tolerated anymore,” he said.

“Indian law does not permit forcible religious conversions, but it is surprising how these people are running a largescale campaign, especially in the border area of Punjab,” he added.

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The Jathedar’s statement came on a day when four masked men vandalised an idol on the premises of a church near Patti, in Tarn Taran district. Earlier this week, police registered an FIR against 150 Sikhs for allegedly disturbing a Christian congregation in Amritsar on Sunday. The Jathedar has urged the police to quash the FIR and release a Nihang who was arrested.

“The law of the country gives reservation benefits to Hindus and Sikhs, but not to Christians. But it is surprising how reservation benefits are being taken even after converting to Christianity in Punjab. It is a matter of grave concern,” he said.

Earlier, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had taken suo motu notice of the Akal Takht Jathedar’s allegations on religious conversions. It had convened a meeting of representatives of Sikh and Christian communities on June 16 to discuss the issue.

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In August last year, NCM joint secretary A Dhanalakshmi had sought a report from then Punjab Chief Secretary Anirudh Tiwari on related issues, including the number of conversions in the last decade, whether these were forced or voluntary, and the number of churches constructed in this period.

A 12-member sub-committee formed by the SAD to introspect on its defeat in the Punjab Assembly polls had also noted the political implications of the “failure” of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) “in stopping religious conversions of Sikhs into other faiths.”

On Monday, Manjit Singh Bhoma of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had demanded a ban on religious conversions in Punjab.

First published on: 31-08-2022 at 04:31:25 am
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