The Madras High Court has pulled up the Tamil Nadu Government asking what was the harm in directing the state to come up with guidelines to prevent forced conversions in government and government-aided minority schools.
A vacation bench of Madras High Court of justice R Mahadevan and justice S Ananthi made this statement while hearing a PIL petition filed by advocate R Jagannath who sought a direction for the Tamil Nadu government to frame effective guidelines and take all necessary steps including corrective measures to prohibit/ prevent and ban forced religious conversion.
Petitioner R Jagannath told the Organiser that he had cited the Lavanya case and the Supreme Court’s upholding of a CBI inquiry into the incident. He also pointed out the incident of a teacher forcing a student to kneel down in Kanyakumari government school for refusing to convert. In his 46 pages affidavit, he accused the DMK government of supporting religious conversions. He mentioned that a DMK MLA had draped a shawl around the prime accused in Lavanya’s death case and welcomed her when she came out on bail. “ it highlights the priorities of the state government and its open sponsoring and backing of these Christian missionaries.”
The Bench said the constitution provides a right to profess any religion but not to forcibly convert a person from one religion to another. It wondered why the court should not issue a direction as sought by the Petitioner. Additional Advocate General questioned the maintainability of the PIL and insisted on throwing it away as the threshold. He said the plea has been filed with malafied intentions as it cited only two stray incidents. However the Bench insisted the need for coming up with such a guidelines.
While the hearing continued on the 6th day, Petitioner, presented the example of a government exam where students were forced to pray before St Anthoniyar church in the front of the school before being taken in a school van to the examination centre. Can’t be construed as one way of conversion?
In January, a girl studying in 12th standard in Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Thirukattupali in Thanjavur ended her life after she was allegedly tortured by her school authorities for refusing to convert to Christianity. A government school teacher in Kanyakumari district allegedly proselytized a 6th standard student and made objectionable remarks about Hindus, Bhagavat Gita and indulged in preaching Christianity to her students. Before this issue died down, a Tirupur based government-aided Jaivabhai Corporation Girls Higher Secondary school Tamil language teacher tried to convert a 12-year-old girl to Christianity. A private TV channel did a string operation to unravel the truth and magnitude of forced conversions in schools in Nagercoil and Kanyakumari areas.
Residents of Maruthuvampadi village in Tiruvannamalai submitted a petition to the district collector seeking action against the Roman Catholic Church in their village that has built a wall blocking the public pathway as the Hindu residents refused to convert. They have alleged that their children studying in the church-run school are denied education for the same reason.