Last year, about 500 children between the age group of 10 and 15 years, landed at Kota railway station from different parts of the country. Accompanied by some Christian missionaries, they were being taken to a church at Kaithun Road, just on the outskirts of the city.
The local activists of the Bajrang Dal got the tip that the children have been brought to convert to Christianity by Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), a mission founded by Dr. A.M Thomas, and currently headed by his son Samuel Thomas.
The Bajrang Dal activists lodged a complaint with the police and also gheraoed the railway station and rescued many children with the help of the police. Later, during inquiries by the police, some of the rescued boys told that they were brought there with the promise that they would be given gifts if they would attend a camp at the church. The police registered a case and an inquiry was ordered.
The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some other nationalist organisations had been apprising the successive governments that EMI, which is running several educational institutions and some other missionaries are indulging in religious conversions of innocent Hindu vanvasis by offering them bribes and allurements. But no action was taken against the EMI and other missionaries involved in such activities during all those years.
Raje was of the firm view that illegal activities of these missionary organisations could be checked only by enacting an anti-conversion legislation, which several others states have already enforced.
But soon after the Kota incident, the nationalist originations approached the Vasundhara Raje government, which immediately agreed to deal with the situation. Smt Raje was of the firm view that illegal activities of these missionary organisations could be checked only by enacting an anti-conversion legislation, which several other states have already enforced.
Smt Raje took no time and asked the Law Department of the State to prepare a draft for a legislation, so that it could be made a law at the earliest.
Shri Gulab Chand Kataria, Home Minister, and Shri Ghanshyam Tiwari, Education Minister, Rajasthan government, were asked to monitor the progress.
The Law Department along with the two ministers studied the similar laws enacted by the governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh. The department was particularly asked to study whether enacting such a law was within the jurisdiction of the state government.
After a detailed study, the draft of the Bill was approved by the Cabinet. The Freedom of Religion Bill 2006 was introduced in the Assembly in the budget session in March. Under the provisions of the Bill, if any one is found guilty of carrying out religious conversion by bribe or allurement, he would attract a punishment up to five years.
Under the provisions of the Bill, if any one is found guilty of religious conversion by bribe or allurement, he would attract a punishment up to five years.
When the Bill was introduced, the nationalist organisations were not fully satisfied with all of its provisions. They were of the view that due to certain flaws in the Bill many vanvasis, who had recently been converted to Christianity, would not be able to return to their original faith. So before passing the Bill, the Rajasthan government moved an amendment under which it was said that those, who want to return to the faith of their ancestors, would not come under the preview of conversion. Since the Bill was introduced and passed after a thorough home work, the Vasundhara Raje government was certain that the Governor Smt Pratibha Patil would not take much time to give consent to it. But the state government was shocked, when on May 15, the Governor returned the Bill to the government without giving her assent. While rejecting the Bill Ms. Patil said she was unable to give her assent to the Bill as the subject of the Bill was not within the jurisdiction of the state government and it was a Central subject. She also advised that the Rajasthan government should send the Bill to the President of India for his assent.
It is widely believed that rejection of the Bill by the Governor was more due to political reasons than the legal one. It is also believed that Smt Patil refused to give her assent to the Bill, as she wanted to please her boss, the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.
It has been said that during the last week of April, a delegation of some Christian organisations had met the Governor and urged her not to give her assent to the Bill. The alleged pretext was that it would give a tool to the police to harass the Christian missionaries, who are engaged in education and service. They also alleged that subject of the Bill was out of the purview State Government.
While returning the Bill to the state government, Smt Patil had attached all the memorandums given to her by various Christian organisations. The Law Department of the State is of the considered opinion that the subject of the Bill was within the jurisdiction of the State and Cabinet should again send the Bill to the Governor for her assent, as provided in the Constitution, in such a situation. The Department said the Governors of Orissa, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh had given assent to anti-conversion laws, when there was Congress governments in those states. The reality is that with the enforcement of this anti-conversion act, many missionaries in the state would be forced to close their conversion shops, as they are indulging only in conversion activities. Of late, Rajasthan had become a major centre of Christian activities. They have been distributing literature, criticising the Hindu religion and gods in a big way.
In Rajasthan, the Christian population, which was less then one lakh till 2001, has become more than double. Interestingly, there is an increase in number of Christians in Vanvasi-populated districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and Udaipur. Many Christian organisations had selected these areas as they found them the most easy hunting ground to spread Christianity among the vanvasis.
According to an intelligence report, after doing conversion work in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand the Christian organisations have made Rajasthan their next target.
Till now there were only two diocese (kind of provinces) in Rajasthan. About six months back a third diocese was formed and Oswal Lewis was made its bishop. This was aimed at giving boost to the missionary activities in the state.