In typical fashion, the Government of Gujarat has indulged in another smoke screen act by proclaiming that it has withdrawn the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Amendment Bill, 2006.
The fact that such a Bill could have been considered is indicative of the Government's unconstitutional behaviour and its insensitivity to the religions of India. It is thanks to the fact that the Governor of Gujarat refused to give his assent to this Amendment that, the Government had no choice but to announce its withdrawal.
The original Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003, however, still remains ! Almost five years after its promulgation, the Government has not been able to cite a single instance of "forced conversion" in the State. Moreover, it has not yet framed the bye-laws / rules which are necessary for the implementation of this Act.
This draconian law characterizes the Government's total disregard for Article 25 of the Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If this Government is serious about protecting and respecting the rights of its citizens, it should withdraw the Act of 2003 in its entirety immediately.
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
' PRASHANT '
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
10th March 2008