Amendment to Gujarat Anti-Conversion Act passed amid protests
Gandhinagar, Sep 19 (PTI) A bill to amend Gujarat's anti-conversion law to allow conversions between different sects of the same faith as well as between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism was today passed in the state assembly by a voice vote amidst protests by the opposition Congress.

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006 also clarified the meaning of "forced conversion" and to whom the anti-conversion law should apply.

The amendement said "to convert means to make one person renounce one religion and adopt another; but does not include one who renounces one denomination and adopts another denomination of the same religion".

This implies there would be no government intervention in case of conversion from Shia to Sunni or from Protestant to Catholic.

Significantly, the same yardsticks will apply to conversions between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as the government considers these religions as a whole.

Under the amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003, a person does not have to seek permission to convert from one sect to another of the same religion.

The opposition protested over the bill considering Buddhism and Jainism as being part of Hinduism.

The anti-conversion law was passed in 2003 by the assembly, but was not implemented as the government could not frame rules. Under the law, Hindus cannot convert to Islam or Christianity without permission from authorities.

Opposition leader Arjun Modhvaida contended that under Article 25 of the Constitution, the government cannot club Jains and Buddhists with Hinuds. He said they are not sub- branches of Hinduism and accused the government of trying to play politics on the issue.
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