Five-time Member of Parliament and Senior Congress leader Margaret Alva has criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Karnataka government’s push for the anti-conversion bill that chief minister Basavaraj Bommai is going to soon table in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, The Telegraph reported.
"I often get requests from BJP MPs and MLAs for seats in our schools and colleges... Why are they sending their kids to Christian schools if we are out to convert them?" asked Alva.
The former Union minister who has also served as governor for states such as Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, was addressing a demonstration at St Francis Xavier Cathedral grounds in Bengaluru against the proposed anti-conversion bill the state government is expected to introduce on 13 December.
“Christian powers ruled India for 200 years. The British, the French, Portuguese and the Dutch were here and after 200 years we are hardly 3 per cent (of the population) in the country. If we had converted (people from other religions), we should be at least 30 per cent,” Alva added, dismissing allegations by the Sangh Parivar that Christian missionaries convert Hindus in an organised manner.
The BJP government had already undertaken a massive programme of intelligence gathering about “authorised and unauthorised” churches in Karnataka, after The Quint accessed a key document issued by Additional Director General of Police, State Intelligence Department.
Additionally, the BJP government ordered a probe on ordinary Christians of at least one district – Chitradurga – whose revenue officials were issued an order to carry out a “door-to-door” inspection to find “Hindus who have converted to Christianity.”
The order was sanctioned by the district collector of Chitradurga, in Central Karnataka, based on the copy of the order accessed by The Quint.
The Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado, who led the demonstrations, said that Christians were also Indian citizens who "are proud citizens of this country."
"While we don’t want any favours, we want our rights guaranteed by the Constitution," The Telegraph added.
He reminded the BJP government that Christians have been engaged in educational institutions, hospitals, and social service for a very long time.
He categorically denied media reports that claimed that large-scale conversions were taking place at Hosadurga taluk in Chitradurga district (where the probe has been ordered) and called it "malicious propaganda."
Alva also emphasised on the work that the Christian community does, not just in Karnataka, but also in north-eastern states where many people (especially tribal people) had embraced Christianity because of its social service.
She also warned the BJP-led Bommai government that it wouldn’t be able to stop the work of the Christian community with just one bill, as reported by The Telegraph.
"We are not afraid. Christians have grown and thrived around the world on the blood of martyrs," Alva said.
(With inputs from The Telegraph.)
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