BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh plans to repeal anti-conversion law

Arunachal Pradesh is likely to repeal a four-decade-old that seeks to curb religious conversions as it could “undermine secularism”.

The state passed the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act in 1978, becoming the third state in the country after Odisha (1967) and Madhya Pradesh (1968) to do so.

“The law could undermine secularism and is probably targeted towards Christians,” Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who heads the state’s BJP government, said on Thursday.

Khandu was speaking at a function organised by the Arunachal Pradesh Catholic Association to mark the 10th death anniversary of Reverend Brother Prem Bhai, a Benedictine missionary.

Khandu said the law would be brought before the next assembly session for repeal as “it could be misused in future by irresponsible officials”.

“Any misuse of the law leading to torture of people could trigger large scale violence in the state and could break Arunachal into pieces,” Khandu stated.

Brother Prem Bhai who died in Sri Lanka in 2008 had spent 25 years proselytizing in Arunachal Pradesh despite repeated arrests and imprisonment under the existing law which subjected people to two years of imprisonment and Rs 10,000 as fine.

Efforts of missionaries like Brother Prem and others have led to Christianity becoming Arunachal Pradesh’s largest religion over the past decades.

As per the 2001 census, Christians were the third largest religious group in the state comprising 18.7% of the total population—behind Hindus (34.6%) and others (30.07%).

In 2011, Christians emerged as the largest religious group (30.26%) followed by Hindus (29.04%) and others (26.20%).

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