The State as Religious Gatekeeper: Human Rights, Resistance and Indian Anti-Conversion Laws
Ashwani Peetush & Jay Drydyk, eds., Human Rights: India and the West, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015)
Posted: 25 May 2014 Last revised: 23 Jun 2015
Date Written: December 15, 2012
Religious conversions in India inextricably implicate human rights. In this chapter, Amar Khoday explores the legal and political aspects of the controversies surrounding such conversions. Khoday argues that anti-conversion laws in India are often a tool of upper castes in Hindu society to prevent lower-caste Dalit communities from enacting forms of social and political resistance. In recent years, state governments in India have placed a number of limits on the ability of individuals to convert. Khoday argues that such legislative manoeuvres are problematic for a number of reasons. They intrude into individual autonomy and the right to follow one’s chosen religion and religious identity. These statutes portray those seeking to convert as helpless victims rather than agents making choices in their own best interests. Furthermore, these acts intervene to counteract socio-cultural resistance of Dalits, Scheduled Castes, and Indigenous groups against dominant caste communities seeking to preserve their power.
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