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In Karnataka, has the Congress unleashed its anti-Hindu agenda on steroids?

Congress government in Karnataka has been accused of foisting a minority agenda over the majority

In less than a month after coming to power in Karnataka, the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah has begun to unleash its “anti-Hindu agenda” on the people by deciding to scrap the “Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Act” brought by the previous BJP government and make several changes to the school textbooks already distributed to the students in the state.

Having made a complete mess of the implementation of its election promise of “five freebies” and facing the backlash of the angry people, the Congress government has adopted a diversionary tactic by raking up communally sensitive issues in order to divert the debate in public forums.

 Changes to textbooks

After a Cabinet meeting, the school education and literacy mission minister Madhu Bangarappa told the media that the new Congress government had decided to make changes in Kannada and Social Studies textbooks for classes 6 to 10. He said lessons on RSS founder Hegdewar, nationalist freedom fighter Veer Savarkar and an article penned by Hindutva ideologue Chakravarthy Sulibele would be dropped from the textbooks and they would be replaced by lessons on BR Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, and social reformer Savitribai Phule.

Claiming that it was an attempt to “clean up the saffornisation of textbooks” done by the previous Basavaraj Bommai government, Bangarappa said since the academic year had begun and textbooks to crores of children had already been distributed, the government would send 15-page supplementary booklets comprising the changes to the teachers “in the next 15 days.”

He announced that the government would constitute a 5-member “experts committee” in the next fortnight “for overall reform of textbooks which will come into effect from the next academic year.”

  Repeal of Anti-conversion Law

A more draconian decision taken by the Siddaramaiah government, clearly succumbing to the minorities’ lobbies, was to repeal the Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Act (the Anti-conversion Law) which came into effect in early 2022.  Karnataka had followed several other state governments which had passed similar laws to put an end to rampant conversions in the last few years. Though the Constitution itself prohibits forcible conversions or by offering inducements, several Christian and Muslim organisations were indulging in conversions from among oppressed classes exploiting the loopholes in the laws.

Karnataka’s law provided for protection of “the right to freedom of religion and prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means” – provisions which could not be challenged.

But, the “conversion racketeers” were afraid of penal provisions like imprisonment from 3 to 5 years with a fine of Rs 5 lakh for illegal conversions. The law also provided for the accused to pay up to Rs 5 lakh as compensation to those who were made to convert illegally and with regard to mass conversions, the accused were to face a jail term of 3 to 10 years with a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

Persons willing to convert to another religion were required to make a declaration in a prescribed form a month in advance before the jurisdictional court or the district magistrate and the same would be brought to public notice for anyone to file an objection. Forcible conversion before or after marriage “shall be declared null and void by the family court or any court having jurisdiction on a petition filed by the affected person,” said the law. The offences under the Act were “non-bailable and cognisable.”

Having come to power by inducing people with the “five guarantees” and trying to implement them in a half-baked manner, chief minister Siddaramaiah, is gradually unveiling the Congress agenda of appeasing the minorities at the cost of the majority Hindus.

Voices of protest have begun to erupt from several quarters. Former BJP minister Basavaraj Yatnal, in a strongly-worded reaction said, “Congress is the new Muslim League now” and it was clearly evident that “the Siddarmaiah government is under the influence of the conversion mafia.”

Also Read: Karnataka CM faces reality check as cash runs out for freebies promised during elections