Debating India

RAJASTHAN

BJP leader assails Pope’s remarks

Monday 22 May 2006

Special Correspondent

"Rajasthan Government considering sending Bill back to Governor"

JAIPUR: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kalraj Mishra on Sunday lashed out at Pope Benedict XVI for his remarks on religious intolerance in India in the context of the anti-conversion Bill passed in Rajasthan. Mr. Mishra said the comments amounted to "blatant interference" in India’s internal affairs and were "intolerable."

Mr. Mishra, who was here to attend the party’s State executive meeting, told presspersons that the Pope, as the Head of State of Vatican, had no authority to comment on the legislative process of a sovereign country. "The BJP has taken the Pope’s remarks seriously and has asked the Centre to react strongly to his outrageous observations."

As a secular State, India was committed to ensuring freedom of religion, but conversion by coercion, deceit or allurement was unconstitutional. "The Rajasthan Assembly passed the Religious Freedom Bill to stop these activities," he said.

Mr. Mishra said if the Pope made suggestions on terrorism affecting India or the need for poverty eradication, it was "understandable." "But the allegations of religious intolerance and violation of fundamental rights of minorities are unacceptable."

He said the BJP Government in the State was examining the legal option of sending the Religious Freedom Bill back to Governor Pratibha Patil after she returned it on Thursday for clearance from the President of India first. "The Governor’s observation that certain provisions are likely to ... infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens is contrary to facts. The Government has sought legal opinion and is of the view that the proposed legislation does not put any restriction on practising a religion of one’s choice," he said.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has held discussions with Law Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari and Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria in the last couple of days.

See online : The Hindu

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