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Jharkhand assembly passes anti-conversion, land bills

Anyone forcing religious conversion will be liable to imprisonment of three to four years and a fine of Rs50,000 to Rs100,000

Gulf News

Ranchi: Amid protests by the opposition, the Jharkhand Assembly on Saturday passed the Religious Independence Bill, 2017, banning conversions, and an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act 2013, removing the need for social impact assessment for certain category of projects.

The opposition walked out when voting was taking place on both the bills.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) legislator Stephen Marandi raised questions over both the bills.

“The Religious Independence Bill 2017 should be sent to the Standing Committee. Some provisions of the bill violate the fundamental rights under the Constitution,” he said.

Leader of Opposition and JMM Executive President Hemant Soren said: “The way the bill has been advertised is wrong. I have studied in a missionary-run school ... why I did not change my religion?”

Legislators of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party however termed it the need of the time.

BJP legislator Radha Krishna Kishore said: “There is need of widespread discussion on the issue. The bill has been tabled after a delay of 15 years. A person’s religion cannot be changed by offering bread. Jharkhand has witnessed large-scale conversion.”

According to the anti-conversion bill, which forbids conversion through allurement or coercion, anyone forcing religious conversion will be liable to imprisonment of three to four years and a fine of Rs50,000 to Rs100,000.

The amendment to the Land Acquisition Act 2013 removed the need for social impact assessment for important social and economic projects meant for the welfare of the people.

Such projects are identified as schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, panchayat buildings, anganwadi centres, waterways, electrification and irrigation projects and drinking water pipeline.

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