The archbishop said some groups wanted the Karnataka government to side with the minorities

In the wake of the Karnataka government passing an ordinance against religious conversion, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore on Monday said the government was influenced by certain groups to keep the minorities on its side. Machado told reporters after meeting with Governor Thawarchand Gehlot, “Perhaps the government has been influenced or compelled by certain groups, certain classes of people, who are forcing the government to side with the minorities.”

A six-member delegation, including bishops and priests, met Gehlot at the palace and appealed to him to stop issuing the ordinance recently passed by the cabinet.

In response to a question about the possibility of going to court, Machado said no decision had been made, but that it would be one of the options to stop issuing the ordinance.

“If the ordinance is enacted, then we must look for ways and means to find resources for us from different angles and the legal way is something we can take,” he said.

“I must say that the Karnataka government is a good government in all of India. Somehow, the question you are asking me is like stabbing me,” the archbishop said in response to a question. Praising the governor for being amicable and listening patiently, Machado said, “We believe the governor should express his feelings and, as far as possible, stop passing this ordinance because we have made it clear that it is not necessary.”

He said Christians are peace-loving people and there have been no conversions in the last two-three months. Also, no serious attacks were reported, he added. The archbishop said the government could have sent a message to the troublemakers, which he felt was a good move. “But, the sudden passage of the ordinance is a bit surprising and sad for us because India is a democratic country and Karnataka has a democratic tradition,” said Machado.

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly last December, but it is pending passage in the Legislative Assembly where the ruling BJP has less than a majority. The bill, passed by the legislature, protects the right to freedom of religion and prohibits illegal conversions from one religion to another through misrepresentation, coercion, unwanted influence, coercion, temptation or any deceptive means.

It proposes three to five years imprisonment with a fine of Rs. .

The bill provides for compensation of up to Rs. One lakh rupees. It states that any marriage which is solely for the sole purpose of illegal conversion or by a man of one religion to a woman of another religion, either before or after marriage or before or after marriage, will be declared void and annulled by the family court.

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