The Movement for People’s Unity – a united forum of several mass organizations and individuals concerned over the growing menace of communal fascism – records its strong protest against the so-called Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2002, issued by the Tamil Nadu Government on October 5, 2002.
The ordinance, which is unwarranted and unprovoked, especially in the context of Tamilnadu, fits ominously into the offensive of communal fascism unleashed on the people of this country over the recent period.
It is an attempt to divide the people and to vitiate the communal atmosphere apparently in furtherance of vested political interests. It is an attempt to divert attention from the people’s problems and struggles. It is a measure, for which the Tamil Nadu Government has no electoral mandate.
Overall, it is not only an anti-people ordinance but is particularly an anti-Dalit one. The provision of the ordinance, which prescribes a heavier and harsher punishment for conversion of Dalits in any prohibited manner, speaks volumes on the real spirit behind the measure. The MPU voices its outrage at this outlook – that takes no initiative whatsoever to protect Dalits from the gross inequities and indignities of a system that still treats them as ‘untouchable’ but instead, promotes a measure like this to prevent them, by force, from seeking any alternative or escape.
It is also an anti-Adivasi ordinance, as it similarly seeks to make conversion of the Scheduled Tribes a comparably serious crime. By clubbing women together with Dalits and Adivasis in this regard, the ordinance makes it clear that its unstated object is to preserve, unquestioningly, the present social status quo and make it mandatory for the marginalised sections of the people.
The ordinance is an assault on a wide range of people’s rights. It is an assault on constitutionally enshrined and guaranteed rights, the rights of minorities, the fundamental rights, the right to practise and propagate one’s religion and on human rights.
A notably obnoxious provision of the ordinance is the one that gives the police an absurdly disproportionate role in the domain of religion and religious conversions. This cannot but make democracy more of a myth for a large section of the people whom the ordinance seeks to keep firmly and forcibly in the fold.
The MPU does not identify itself with any religion and is not engaged in any campaign of religious conversion. But, it draws attention, in the context of the ordinance, to the absurdity of the claim that a religion, which is as old in this State as St. Thomas the Apostle and still accounts for less than three per cent of the population, has succeeded by “force”, “fraudulent means” and “allurement” (which, in terms of the ordinance, can include educational opportunities). We call upon the public to see the fallacy of such claims and not to fall prey to such propaganda against any minority.
The MPU demands immediate withdrawal of the ordinance. It urges all political forces opposed to communalism and communal fascism to oppose the ordinance and beat back the offensive it represents. It calls upon the people to support its campaign against the ordinance.