Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal have enacted a legislation to curb the activities of Christian missionaries. Israel has enacted a law banning conversion. In Switzerland, the Society of Jesus is banned. In Columbia, the Catholics have curbed the evangelistic activities of non-Catholics. Many of the predominantly Catholic countries in Latin America have banned missionary activities that have been found detrimental to their social harmony and political stability. Brazil, for example, has banned even holding of Church services, for a period of time. Venezeula has banned the Methodist Church and expelled all foreign missionaries from its soil. The Zaire government has imposed restrictions on the activities of Christian missionaries to protect the African identity. In Indonesia, where full freedom was once accorded to religious propagation, but on seeing that communal harmony was getting disrupted, the Indonesian government banned conversion and imposed restrictions on missionary activities. When such is the trend the world over, even if evangelistic activities are not completely banned in this country, we can at least enact a legislation banning mass conversion and conversion by fraudulent and foul means.
Thiru Balakrishnan, learned counsel, appearing for the Hindus, in his written submission, has contended that the Christians became the majority community in Kanyakumari district on account of the conversion carried out by Christian missionaries and that conversion should be banned by passing an Anti-Conversion Act. A number of books have been filed before the Commission to show the nature of conversion activities carried out by Christian missionaries in India. The report of the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh is entitled Christianity: A Political Problem by Major Vedantham and Christianity in India: A Critical Study has been published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan. The books reveal that conversion through faith, conviction, change of heart, direct experience with God, is not the pattern of conversion today in this country; there is mass conversion of Harijans and tribals to Christianity through inducement, persuasion, economic aid, welfare methods, all amounting to bribes.
Individual conversion is an exception rather than a rule. Conversions in the past have gone unnoticed. After India attained Independence and in the changed democratic set-up the public became assertive against conversion. Conversion of Hindus to other religions has given rise to problems of law and order.
In a predominatly Hindu country, large-scale conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Islam, has a tendency to disturb the local customs and faith as well as indigenous institutions, thereby robbing the local people of their individual personality. It generates and fosters a rift in the society bereft of traditional moorings. There is intrusion of an alien culture into the society. It disturbs the social structure and leads to a clash of cultures, creating problems of law and order, disturbing the existing inter-communal harmony. Conversions arouse resentment and indignation and help to fan the flames of communal passion, justly or unjustly. When such conversions are made on a large scale, the Hindus begin to fear that the number of Christians will increase and their own strength would dwindle to the detriment of their political importance and power.
That was the reason which prompted Gandhiji, the Father of the Nation, to remark: ?The conversion, where it has taken place, has not been a spiritual act in any sense of the term. They are conversions for convenience.? He had once stated, ?If I had power and could legislate, I would certainly stop all proselytising.? In Hindu households, the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family life in the wake of the change in dress, manners, language, food and drinks.
Gandhiji'sdream of a legislation to ban conversion became a reality when the Madhya Pradesh government passed a legislation banning conversion and which was soon followed by the Orissa government that passed a similar act.
The constitutional validity of the Madhya Pradesh Act as well as the Orissa Act came up for consideration before the Supreme Court in Revend Staines vs State of Madhya Pradesh (A.I.R., 1977; Supreme Court 908 at 911). The Supreme Court held that the right to propagate religion to another does not grant the right of conversion from one religion to another and upheld the constitutional validity of the Madhya Pradesh and Orissa Acts. The Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura government also have enacted laws similar to the one enacted by the Madhya Pradesh and Orissa governments.
Christianity and Islam are feeling annoyed at the reconversion efforts of Hindus. Mass conversion have led to mass reconversions. The Hindus have given up the taboo on reconversion and started the reverse process.
It may be stated that the prevailing conditions in Tamil Nadu do not warrant a law to ban conversion. There is no guarantee that what happened in Kanyakumari district will not be repeated. The conversion to Islam that took place in Meenak-shipuram sometime back is a clear writing on the wall that cannot go unnoticed by the government. What is to be kept in mind is that prevention is better than cure. The government cannot be faulted for not being forewarned; it has to be prepared to meet all eventualities and contingencies by promulgating the ordinance imposing a ban on conversions.