Renowned economist and social activist Jean Dreze was made to cut short his speech on "growing communalism" in Jharkhand after the state's agriculture minister Randhir Kumar Singh created furore over his remarks on Monday.
Dreze was speaking at an event organised by a Hindi daily, where he commented on the functioning of saffron organisations like Rashtriya Swayansewak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal.
"Communalism, today, is not only a tool for stray outfits like Bajrang Dal and Islmaic state.Even the govt's policies, especially the Jharkhand state, also reflects the communal agendas," he said.
While slamming the state government's advertisement targetting the Christian missionaries against conversion activities in the tribal belt, he pointed out the 'misquotation' of Gandhiji's statement.
Barely four minutes into his speech, as he raked the issue of RSS' communal agenda, Singh and some other people sitting in the audience stood up in protest. "What do you know about the Sangh," he yelled.
Jean Dreze didn't get to continue his speech anyway and walked back to his seat as Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh took charge.
Reportedly, several prominent activists gathered outside Jharkhand's Raj Bhavan, a day later, to protest against the economist being prevented from finishing his speech, calling it a reflection of the intolerance in the country.
This comes days after the Jharkhand government had approved the draft of a bill that will ban religious conversion by force or allurement.
As per section 3 of the Bill, there will be up to three years imprisonment or Rs 50,000 penalty or both for those who violate the ban. The bill provides for tougher action on forced conversions of minor girls and women from the scheduled tribes. If the crime involved a minor, woman or person from SC/ST then the prison term would be up to four years and a penalty of one lakh rupees.
The Jharkhand Religious Independence Bill, 2017, was approved at a meeting of the cabinet chaired by chief minister Raghubar Das.
The bill is likely to be introduced during the monsoon session of the assembly beginning on August 8. If passed, Jharkhand will become the sixth state to have a law against conversion by force or enticement after Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. In April this year, the Maharashtra government had said in the state assembly that it was considering an anti-conversion law to curb the alleged cases of conversion by Christian evangelists.
PTI reported that the BJP state unit welcomed the Bill and said that forcible conversion is an anti-national act and it should be stopped at any cost.
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